We’ve heard before that using headphones or earbuds too loudly could be affecting our hearing… but there’s new research showing that with so many kids and teens being exposed to loud music… they are now show signs of early and permanent hearing damage.
Canadian researchers found one quarter of 11 to 17 year olds with risky listening habits had a persistent ringing in their ears — that is more common among older adults.
These teens could still hear as well as their peers … but were more likely to be very sensitive to loud noises. That’s a sign of hidden damage to the nerves … which can lead to hearing impairment later in life.
What may be contributing to that is the use of headphones, most specifically ear buds. Audiologists say the volume of your music should not be more than 50 percent of what your device is capable of.
85 decibels is the goal — your ears cannot handle noise above that for an extended amount of time.
Research has proven: “at about 110 decibels you have 90 seconds before it starts damaging your hearing.” so imagine all the times after a club, concert, or sports event… when you ears are ringing!
“your hearing may temporarily go back to normal but you’ve done some damage and the more you do that, the more times you expose your ears to that kind of noise, the more likely it is that you’re going to be developing permanent hearing loss”.
According to research, being outdoors is typically when people want to turn up the volume… and in that case… the music doesn’t block out the other sounds, it adds to them.
What can you do?
Hearing loss is a gradual and normal part of the ageing process. However, excessive noise is still the primary cause. Permanent hearing loss can occur almost instantly with unprotected exposure to certain sounds.
To protect yourself from noise:
- If the sound level at work exceeds 85dB, reduce the noise level or wear hearing protection.
- Lower the volume of your television, stereo and iPod. Take special care if you use headphones or earbuds.
- Be careful not to turn up your car stereo volume too loudly to compensate for noise from the engine or the wind.
- Wear custom noise filters or solid earplugs if you go to rock concerts or nightclubs, and don’t stand near loud speakers.
- Wear noise-cancelling headphones or solid earplugs if you use noisy equipment such as drills, lawnmowers, etc.
To avoid damage from foreign objects:
- Don’t use cotton swabs to clean your ears. Doing so may push wax down onto your eardrum and can increase the production of wax and/or damage the eardrum.
- Avoid washing with unclean water to prevent ear infections.
What are decibels?
Decibels (dB) measure the intensity of sound: from 0dB, which is the faintest sound the human ear can detect, to the noise of a rocket during launch, which can exceed 180dB.
Experts typically consider exposure to more than 85dB to be dangerous, which means things like motorcycles, headphones and lawnmowers have potential to lead to permanent hearing loss.
Loud music and the increasing use of headphones for personal devices and consoles means children and teens are risking deafness in later life
The number of teenagers with hearing damage caused by loud music has hit an alarming level, experts warn.
Detailed tests on 170 students aged 11 to 17 showed almost all engaged in “risky listening habits” at parties, clubs and on personal devices.
More than a quarter of them were already experiencing chronic, persistent tinnitus – a ringing or buzzing in the ears that more typically affects people over 50.
Study co-author Drr Larry Roberts, of McMaster University in Canada, said: “It’s a growing problem and I think it’s going to get worse.
“My personal view is that there is a major public health challenge coming down the road in terms of difficulties with hearing .”
Further testing of the same subjects – all students at the same school in Sao Paulo, Brazil – showed that even though they could still hear as well as their peers, those experiencing tinnitus were more likely to have a significantly reduced tolerance for loud noise.
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This is considered a sign of hidden permanent damage to the nerves that are used in processing sound, damage that can foretell serious hearing impairment later in life.
Dr Roberts said that when the auditory nerves are damaged, brain cells increase their sensitivity to their remaining inputs, which can make ordinary sounds seem louder.
Increased loudness perception is an indication of nerve injury that cannot be detected by the audiogram, the standard clinical test for hearing ability.
Research indicates that such “hidden hearing loss” caused by exposure to loud sounds in early life deepens over the years, worsening a person’s hearing ability later in life.
Dr Roberts said the only solution is prevention.
“The levels of sound exposure that are quite commonplace in our environment, particularly among youth, appear to be sufficient to produce hidden cochlear injuries,” he said.
“The message is, ‘Protect your ears.’”