Saturday, August 21, 2010

What's That You Say?

Old ears on young bodies is becoming the norm. Rather than waiting until their senior years to require hearing aids, the ear buds attached to ipods have caused a generational gap between the ears.

"It's a different level of use than we've seen in the past," according to Robert Novak, director of clinical education in audiology at Purdue University. Novak says seeing young people with "older ears" is a trend from the Walkman days and today's technology is producing wider spread hearing loss among younger people similar to what one would expect in a much older person.

From a random selection of students, Novak documents this growing trend in what is know as noise-induced hearing loss. Ultimately the students lose the ability to hear higher frequencies, have difficulty following conversations in noisy environments and suffer from tinnitus or ringing in the ears.

Despite the warning signs and mounting evidence, it seems clear that ear buds are here to stay. More people are using them to block out street noise. But how much is too much? Research shows that a portable music player with headphones at 60 percent of the volume for an hour a day is relatively safe. Telltale signs of trouble are ringing in the ears that persists even after rest your ears.

Will this evidence stop young people from wearing ear buds excessively? Doubtful. We attended concerts and came away with ringing in the ears before we wised up to bringing a pair of ear plugs or stuffing them with cotton. I am afraid that telling young people of the potential consequences of hearing loss will most likely fall on deaf ears. With one in 5 teens experiencing hearing loss, limiting their exposure may result in a flurry of adolescent misplaced anger, but in the long run, they will still be able to hear you say I love you for a very long time. That's what wise grandma would do.

1 comment:

Susan Adcox said...

On a recent car trip with my 13-year-old granddaughter, we had the problem of her playing her iPod too loudly. Thankfully, her father was along, and he's very conscious of this issue, so he made her turn the volume down. Just as you said, this resulted in a snit or two, but that's better than permanent hearing damage.

They make ear buds that limit the volume that can come through. They are designed for young children, but maybe you could sneak them in on the older kids, too. Just take them out of the packaging first!