Now Hear This. It’s Time to Turn Down the Volume

Published: Thursday, August 19, 2010, 12:33 AM   
The Republican Editorials

iPod teen hearing loss
Associated PressMatthew Brady, 17, of Foxborough, Mass., poses for a portrait in his home while wearing ear phones and displaying an iPod, Friday.
Brady, who has some mild hearing loss, used to listen to the device while running on a treadmill with the volume turned up. A stunning number of teens have lost a little bit of their hearing _ nearly one in five _ and the problem has increased substantially in recent years, a new national study has found.

Is it time for iPods and MP3 players to carry a warning label that says they could be hazardous to a listener’s hearing?

That may seem a bit extreme. But a new national study shows there’s been a sharp increase in hearing loss among teenagers – and that’s turned up the volume in the debate about the role the ubiquitous digital listening devices might play in the phenomenon.

One out of five adolescents has some evidence of hearing loss and one out of 20 has at least mild hearing loss, according to the Boston Women and Brigham’s Hospital study that compared currents data with data from 1988-1994. In doing the comparison, researchers said there has been a 30 percent increase in the prevalence of any hearing loss, and a 70 percent increase in mild or worse hearing loss in the past 15 years.

While researchers didn’t single out iPods or any similar device as the culprit, they did say an increase in high-frequency hearing loss may indicate that
noise caused the problems. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, however, to surmise that the rise in popularity of personal listening devices – and the
high volumes teens set them at – is a factor.

Ever try to get a teenager’s attention when he’s got ear-buds in his ears – which, by the way, seems like it’s most of the time?

The study found that hearing loss is more prevalent in adolescent boys than girls and more common in teens who live below the U.S. poverty line.

“What makes hearing loss in adolescents even more concerning is previous research showing that teens underestimate the importance of hearing and noise exposure,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Josef Shargorodsky. “Hearing loss is usually permanent and progressive,” study co-author Dr. Gary C. Curhan added, saying that even mild degrees of hearing can affect learning and social interactions.

Perhaps manufacturers will take on some responsibility. A block on decibels above damaging levels?

In the meantime, iPods and MP3 Players are here to stay. We hope this study will prompt parents, educators and health care providers to sound an alarm with young people that it behooves them to lower the volume.

Reproduced from