Our ears are one of the most sensitive organs in our bodies. They are also one of the most important to care for. One of the biggest threats to our ears is the exact thing they are meant to detect – sound. At some point, the lovely sounds your ears detect may get louder and louder as we enjoy our favorite things and work at our jobs. Every day we risk developing noise-induced hearing loss and so do our children.
What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?
This type of hearing loss is a concern for anyone at any age. Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by exposure to loud sounds. There is no set time of exposure that will cause hearing damage. A short blast of a very loud noise may have the same effect as prolonged exposure to loud sounds on a regular basis.
Noise-induced hearing loss causes damage to the inner ear. This can show up as damage to the nerve fibers and/or structures within the inner ear. The inner ear’s job is to respond to sound. Medical treatments and surgeries cannot heal this form of damage – it is permanent.
You may think of noise-induced hearing loss happening to a person working in an industrial setting or serial concert goers. While this is true, the CDC reports that noise-induced hearing loss also happens at rather young ages.
Why is Noise Exposure in Teens Important?
Adolescence is the time where extreme amounts of learning, both academically and socially, occur. Even a small amount of hearing impairment can affect the comprehension rates of school material. Additionally, social interactions can become sources of embarrassment and confusion when the teen cannot hear all of the conversation or participate due to hearing loss.
The CDC estimates that approximately 5.2 million (12.5%) of children ages six to 19 experience hearing loss due to exposure of excessively loud sounds. Parents, guardians and teachers need to be aware of the risk to help mitigate noise exposure. Talk to your teenager about these risk factors in their life.
Risk Factors of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in your Teenager
- Their first concerts
- Large sporting events (homecoming, professional games)
- Playing in the school band
- Attending skills classes (“shop class” or trade school courses)
- Learning what types of music they enjoy and listening to it loudly through headphones
- Starting their first job mowing lawns for the neighborhood.
These are all examples of important life experiences that present risk factors for hearing loss in teens.
Preventing Hearing Loss
Although it may seem like a tough task to prevent hearing loss, some simple tips can help reduce the risk of it happening to your child. The first step is bringing awareness to your child. If you and they both know about the risks they are involved in, you can work together to make a plan to protect their ears.
- Device volume. Increasing the volume on the TV, phone or stereo system is an easy way to create an environment for extended exposure to loud noises. Set a volume and/or time limit to control this.
- Headphones. While it may be harder to monitor your child’s listening volume with headphones, this is a crucial step in protecting your teen’s hearing. Such concentrated, loud sounds can cause serious damage to the inner ear. A rule of thumb to follow: If I can hear it, it is too loud. If you can hear the sound coming from your child’s headphones, the volume is too high and they need to turn it down.
- Hearing protection. When looking at the list above (Risk Factors of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in your Teenager), you may notice that these risks are not negative experiences. In fact, many of them are a part of growing up, being a part of a social circle and developing hobbies and skills. Your child should still participate in such enriching activities, but ask them to wear ear protection.
Simple ear plugs can reduce the impact of loud noises on ears at band concerts and sporting events. Noise-cancelling ear muffs can be another great option for loud tasks like mowing the lawn and skills courses. Learning what works for you and your family is key, as well as consistently reminding them. If you and your teen become concerned about their hearing, please contact Sonora Hearing Care and schedule a consultation today.