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May 14, 2012

Parents don't talk with their teens about the risk of hearing loss

Most parents have not discussed hearing loss with their teens, an US poll shows, although one in six adolescents has high-frequency hearing loss.

Parents don't talk with their teens about the risk of hearing loss

A poll carried out by the National Poll on Children's Health from the University of Michigan shows that two-thirds of parents have not talked about the risk of noise-induced hearing loss with their teens. Among these parents, more than three-quarters believe that their teens are not at risk.

According to national data, one in six US adolescents has high-frequency hearing loss which can be caused by extended listening to loud noise over long periods of time or even by brief exposure to extremely loud sounds. An apparent recent increase in high-frequency hearing loss may be partially attributed to the popularity of MP3 players for adolescents. Many teens and their parents are unlikely to consider the long-term consequences of noise-induced hearing damage.

Unawareness about hearing loss

Noise-induced hearing loss often goes unnoticed in its early stages. With continued hazardous noise exposure high frequency hearing loss may progress to a point at which it affects the ability to understand speech.

 “Teenagers are unaware of noise-induced hearing damage until it progresses to the point where it affects speech and communication,” says Sarah Clark, M.P.H., Associate Director of the Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit, University of Michigan, and the National Poll on Children’s Health. “At this point they may have difficulties at school and in social situations.”

Simple steps toward hearing conservation

“Noise induced-hearing loss is not reversible, but it is preventable,” says Deepa L. Sekhar, M.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Penn State College of Medicine. “There are simple steps that parents and teenagers can take toward hearing conservation.”

One of these simple steps is encouraging the use of volume-limiting headphones or earbuds - devices that look like regular headphones or earbuds but constrain sound to 85 decibels or less, a reduction of up to 40% of the maximum volume output.

Here, the poll also revealed that only 32% of parents were aware of volume-limiting devices. When informed, over half of the parents of teens report that they would be likely to purchase them. Only a third of parents think that their teens would be likely to use them.

Source: C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, National Poll on Children's Health, University of Michigan

Noise and hearing loss

Children and hearing loss

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