Research conducted among Brazilian students aged 11 to 17 showed that more than a quarter of them (28%) were already experiencing chronic, persistent tinnitus. More than half of the students in the study had experienced temporary tinnitus. The study showed that the prevalence of early, permanent hearing damage has reached alarming levels among young Brazilians.
Hidden hearing loss
Even though the students could still hear as well as their peers, those experiencing tinnitus were more likely to have a significantly reduced tolerance to loud noise. This is considered a sign of hidden, permanent damage to the nerves that are used in processing sound, damage that can predict serious hearing impairments later in life.
“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,” says Larry Roberts of McMaster’s Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, who is one of the study authors. The study, which consisted 170 students, was led by Brazilian researcher Tanit Ganz Sanchez and her colleagues at the University of São Paulo School of Medicine in Brazil.
Risky listening habits
Young people are very often exposed to loud music – at concerts, at parties and clubs, at the gym and especially on personal listening devices. Despite the fact that it is common to experience a ringing in the ears for the next day or so, it is still an early warning sign of tinnitus.
“The levels of sound exposure that are quite commonplace in our environment, particularly among youth, appear to be sufficient to produce hidden cochlear injures. The message is, ‘Protect your ears’,” Roberts concludes.