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Listen Up! Teen Hearing Loss Is on the Rise

Next time you can hear your teen's music blasting from his earphones, ask him how soon he would like to wear a hearing aid.

That may sound extreme, but a new study published in the August 18, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that one in five U.S. teens has some level of hearing loss, most likely due to the loud music they listen to on their iPods or other personal music players.

The researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston analyzed the hearing screenings of 1,800 12- to 19-year-olds from across the country and found that 19.5 percent had slight hearing loss, meaning they probably can't hear sounds like a whisper, rustling leaves, or a dripping faucet.

The study's findings mean that an estimated 6.5 million teens in the U.S. have some hearing loss, which could affect their learning and socialization in school and lead to a need for hearing aids early in life.

Big Problem, Low Priority

Teens have been playing music at high volumes for decades, but hearing loss has increased by 30 percent compared to the 1980s and '90s, according to studies. Experts suspect that the long battery life of today's music players and increased obsession with media gadgets is contributing to the issue.

Another study indicated that most young people have experienced ringing in their ears after a loud concert or night out at a club, but they ranked hearing loss as a low health concern.

It's an invisible problem, and the public isn't highly aware of the educational, social, and psychological issues that come with hearing loss, especially in children and adolescents. Kids may not be able to hear their teachers in the classroom or their friends in the lunchroom, and both can affect their development and self-esteem.


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