Hearing Loss in Teenagers – How to Limit the Damage

As parents we often find ourselves yelling at or teenagers in order to get them to pay attention to us. We assume that this is just because they are teenagers and are naturally belligerent, but it could be that they are experiencing some degree of hearing loss and generally didn’t hear us calling. According to the latest research into a hearing loss in teens around 15% of teenagers in the US and the UK are displaying the early signs related to hearing loss. The blame for this has been placed squarely in the court of lifestyle choices, namely the engaging in activities which place the quality of their hearing at risk. Loud music played via earphones or headphones, attending music concerts and even the noise from traveling on public transport or drying their hair with an electric hairdryer can all have a negative impact on their hearing levels.

Decibel Levels

The greater the decibel level, the greater the amount of damage noise can do to the ear. To give you some idea of the decibel range, the quietest sound our ears can register comes in at 0 decibels.  The average conversation is carried out at around 60 decibels. A sudden gunshot (at close range), which can cause immediate, if temporary, deafness, but longterm damage, measures in at 140 decibels. The maximum level at which we can tolerate noise without any harm being done has been recorded as being 70 decibels. It is all of the things that we do which carry a noise level of more than 70 decibels that impact on our hearing.

The detrimental effect to hearing occurs when a noise is sufficiently loud enough to damage the microscopic hairs within the inner ear; these hairs are what send noise signals to our brain. While hearing can recover after exposure to an instance of loud noise, sustained exposure can cause permanent damage to the hearing. It can take some time for the longterm exposure to impact on their hearing, so teenagers may feel they are impervious to the loud noises they subject themselves to.

Damage Limitation

There are things that you can do to protect your teen’s hearing, for example:

  • If you go out to eat, or anywhere else where you need to raise your voice in order to be heard, it will probably be affecting your hearing. Go somewhere else.
  • Take a look at your teen’s music player/mp3 and see if there is a volume control limiter on it and if so make sure that they use it.  You could also suggest limiting the amount of time that they use their earphones/headphones every day.
  • Hit the volume switch and start turning things down, this includes the TV, stereos, gaming systems… everything!
  • If they are going to be in a noise hazardous environment give them some foam earplugs as these can reduce the sound entering the ear by around 20 decibels.
  • Invest in some noise cancelling headphones.  These limit the amount of background noise that can be heard so that they don’t have to crank up the sound levels on their mp3 players.

Claire Dixon writes for a website dedicated to providing the best free, impartial advice to those living with hearing loss across the country.

I Started out in 1976 trying out to sing in bands but no bands were interested in me. In 1977 I started playing guitar. The individual that was teaching me (who for now will remain anonymous) told me that I would NEVER learn how to play guitar because I had no sense of rhythm. I joined my first band in 1978 called "Dead Center" in Jacksonville, Florida. I played an Aspen guitar, black; a Les Paul copy and in 1981. I gave that guitar to the teacher who said I'd never learn to play. I wrote my first song in 1979 or '80. Over the years I have been in many bands but my passion has been songwriting. I have written well over 100 songs and though the early ones were kind of rough around the edges, I think that most of them could be dusted off and given a new facelift. Today I am still working on my songs. Currently I can play guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, harmonica, and Native American flute. The flutes that I play are ones that I made myself. My guitars are the Epiphone G-400 faded, an Ibanez RG370 DX, an Epiphone G 1275 double neck guitar. My acoustic guitars are an Alvarez 12 string and an old Kay guitar. My drum set is a Peace drum set. I do my recording on a Zoom HD16.
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