I Can’t HEAR You!

Heads up mamas — there’s some news out there that you need to pay attention to: According to the article on CNN, Dr. Ronald Eavey says we are on the front edge of an epidemic of hearing loss in our teens.

His study, which was just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found a 30% increase in the rate of minimal hearing loss and a 77% increase in the rate of serious hearing loss in American children ages 12 through 19, compared with data from the mid-1990’s.

This is a huge jump and of serious concern to doctors and parents alike. Although the researchers have not yet pinpointed the exact cause of this worrisome trend they, along with audiologists and other experts in the field have their strong suspicions — and so do we. In case you haven’t noticed, practically every teenager in this country spends a good part of each day with something in their ears. Ipods, M3P players and the like seem to be permanently glued to the heads of many of our kids.

Researchers at Colorado University and Children’s Hospital in Boston found that not only do teens play their music at much higher levels than adults, they don’t realize how high the volume is. Cory Portnuff, who led that study on hearing loss and Ipod use found that many kids assume that the manufacturer’s default setting makes the maximum volume safe (it’s not). Add to that the fact that they are listening to music for much longer periods of time than before and you start to get an understanding of the problem.

And most of the kids are pretty clueless about the fact that they are putting their hearing at risk, says Portnuff. He found that listening to an Ipod with earbuds for 90 minutes a day at 80% volume was probably safe but even 5 minutes a day at full volume is enough to increase the risk of permanent damage.

And once the damage is done, it’s done. The loss is irreversible. NO MORE HEARING — FOR LIFE! So what can you do? A few things:

  1. Share this post with your child and try to get them to take this seriously.
  2. Set the volume level on your child’s Ipod. Apple gives detailed instructions on its website as to how you can do this.
  3. Check out the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website which features a bookmark on How Loud is Too Loud?
  4. Take a look at Listen to Your Buds, a website that helps you and your kids understand the risks of loud noise and how you can protect your hearing.
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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.

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