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Hearing Loss in Teens Is on the Rise

Study Shows 1 in 5 Teenagers Has Signs of Hearing Loss

Second Opinion

The new survey is concerning, says Robert K. Jackler, MD, Sewall Professor and Chair of Otolaryngology at Stanford University School of Medicine, who reviewed the study findings for WebMD.

''It certainly raises red flags," he says of the finding that one in five teens has hearing loss.

"This degree of increase is concerning," says Jackler, who is chair of the hearing committee for the American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery.

While the researchers won't specify suspected reasons for the increase, Jackler suspects the increasing use of amplified music among adolescents.

The researchers found high-frequency loss much higher in the second survey, he points out, and that is the type that's often the result of excessive noise exposure as well as aging.

''If this study is validated, and if this trend is validated, it gives a strong argument in favor of limiting the ability of these amplified music players to deliver potentially injurious levels of noise," he tells WebMD.

In Europe, a proposed standard would have manufacturers of personal music players provide a safe “default” setting. Jackler suggests the U.S. government should consider adopting lower levels of maximum output.

How to Prevent Hearing Loss in Teens

What can parents do to help preserve teens' hearing?

Remind them to turn down the volume when listening to music, says Alison Grimes, an audiologist and manager of the audiology clinic at Ronald Reagan-UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, who reviewed the study findings for WebMD.

''If you can't turn down the  volume, get physically further away from the sound, or use earplugs," says Grimes, who is also past president of the American Academy of Audiology.

How loud is too loud? ''The conservative approach would be to listen at 85 decibels or below," says Jackler.

That's about the noise you would hear, Grimes says, if you hold a hair dryer 6 inches from your ear.

Grimes suggests parents also tell teens to turn off the music for 10 minutes each hour and give their ears a break. Symptoms such as ringing in the ears or feelings of fullness, she says, ''are both signs the noise exposure has been too loud."

A telephone inquiry to Apple, which makes the iPod personal listening device, was not returned in time for publication.

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