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Spike in hearing loss among adolescents

December 3, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Blasting out a rocking tune on an MP3 player may be blowing out your kids' ears. A new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds listening to loud music may be responsible for a spike in hearing loss among adolescents.Experts at the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles say parents need to remind their teens that hearing loss is irreversible.

Alexa Curhan loves to blast her music, but after learning those earphones may lead to hearing loss, she changed her tune.

A new study shows 1 out of 5 teens has slight hearing loss, and 1 out of 20 has at least mild hearing loss. That's a 30 percent increase in the past 15 years.

"This generation coming in is going to have a problem, I think, that's going to be quite extreme," said Dr. Jennifer Derebery, a physician at House Ear Institute.

This is one of the reasons Dr. Derebery and her colleagues at the House Ear Institute wrote the book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Hearing Loss."

"It's the most common neurological problem difficulty that there is, and it's very, very under-recognized by the public," said Dr. Derebery.

Loud noise destroys tiny hair cells in your ear that route sound waves to your brain.

"I noticed that I had never really paid attention to how loud I was listening to my iPod on a daily basis," said Curhan.

Be safe. Set your music player to about 60 percent of its peak volume, don't listen for more than 60 minutes a day and stay away from music louder than 85 decibels, where hearing loss occurs.

"So if we start getting this into consciousness, getting people to recognize this, maybe we can prevent it," said Dr. Derebery.

For some kids, a hearing loss may be compounded by other health problems and many doctors don't know how to treat. Dr. Derebery says the information in her book can be an ear saver.

'We are so tired of having patients coming in and tell us that they've been told by professionals that there's nothing that can be done for their problem, and it's so untrue," she said.

Curhan now uses a computer program to download tunes at a safe level. A good move, doctors say, because early hearing loss can lead to faster deterioration as kids get older.

The problem of hearing loss is so common in kids, researchers are asking parents to be more vigilant about volume. Small modifications can make all the difference.


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