Staying Safe: Prevent your teen from suffering hearing loss

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A distressing number of young people in the United States already have some evidence of hearing loss, a new study found.

KSL put that research to the test at a Salt Lake City high school, by accident. The findings could help your teen Stay Safe.

In 2005-2006 19.5 percent of children ages 12 to 19 (approx. 6.5 million teens) had some hearing loss, compared with 14.9 percent in an earlier study (1988-1994). -Journal of the American Medical Assoc.

Salt Lake City School District's audiologist was teaching a class at East High School when several students jumped, apparently in reaction to a shrill noise.

Some students have learned if they set their phones at extremely high pitches, they can hear an incoming text message -- but their older teachers can't.

When the sound went off in that classroom, a total of three students didn't hear it.

"What that shows is the ones of you who didn't hear it, you probably have some early damage from noise exposure," said the audiologist, Dr. Mary Lou Reitz.

Her unplanned experiment reinforces new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study found about 20 percent of young people show evidence of hearing loss, and the prevalence of hearing loss has gone up 30 percent in recent years.

Staying Safe: Tips for Teens to Prevent Hearing Loss
  • Wear ear protection in loud places like concerts
  • Reduce use of ear buds
  • Turn up the sound for just your favorites songs instead of all music
  • Simply turn down the sound

"I suppose we will be selling a lot of hearing aids in 20 years unless we can educate them," Dr. Reitz said.

Not surprisingly, a contributing factor these days is a large number of teens using earbud headphones to play loud music in their ears for hours.

"(Earbuds) are pushing 90 to 110 decibels," said audiologist Dr. Shane Hunsaker. "A little less than a jet engine, to put it in simpler terms."

Audiologists suggest the best way to prevent hearing loss is to wear ear protection.

"We just need to turn things down," Dr. Hunsaker said. "We live in a very, very noisy world."

An even better way to stay safe: simply turn down the sound.

"If their child's wearing the earphones and they talk to them and they don't answer, it's too loud," Dr. Hunsaker said.

Though not being able to be interrupted may be intentional. One practical suggestion for teens is to turn up the sound for your favorites songs, but then back it down the rest of the time.


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Nadine Wimmer


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