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April 13, 2004

Noise is a serious hazard to children's hearing ability

One American child in eight suffers from hearing loss, according to a comprehensive national health survey.

Those affected have difficulty picking up sounds at high frequencies in one or both ears, and continued exposure to loud noise will compound the problems. Results of the survey identifying noise as a serious health hazard for children were published in the journal, Pediatrics, in July of 2001.

Children are exposed to significant amounts of hazardous noise and their hearing is extremely vulnerable. The conclusions are based on The Third National Health and Nutrition Examiniation Survey conducted in 1988-1994. A broad sample of 5249 children aged between 6 and 19 years across the United States had their hearing tested and their general health examined, as well.

Hearing threshold shifts were found in 12.5% of the children. This translates into approximately 5.2 million children within the entire U.S. population. The older children in the survey suffered from diminished hearing ability more often than the younger children. More boys than girls suffer from hearing loss. One probable explanation is that boys more often than girls engage in noisy games or activities.

Some of the hearing deficiencies may be attributable to genetic causes or diseases, but the researchers behind the survey find no reason to doubt that the primary cause of the wide-spread hearing loss is noise. The survey provides no indication as to the most common noise sources associated with hearing loss among children, but toys, airplanes, guns, fireworks, stereos, disc-men and power tools are examples of everyday sources of noise affecting children that often exceed the maximum noise levels permitted in the workplaces of adults.

Source: Pediatrics Volume 108, No. 1, July 2001: 40-43

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