I’ve heard this all before. Forty years ago, from my mother, and now, from Kathryn Doyle:
Teenagers are at risk for serious long-term hearing problems caused by excessively loud music or other loud noises. But parents don’t always grasp the gravity of the situation, or talk to their kids about it, according to a new study.
“I think parents are only recently becoming aware of the dangers of excessive noise exposure,” study author Dr. Deepa L. Sekhar told Reuters Health.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d guess anyone who grew up in the ’70’s and ’80’s heard one or both of their parents warn them about listening to loud music and future hearing loss. Whether we believed them or not is debatable. But our parents did warn us. The CDC now says that 12% of American teenagers already have some measurable hearing loss, and Doyle reports that parents are not getting the message across:
Almost 70 percent of the parents had not spoken with their child about noise exposure, mainly because they thought the actual risk of hearing damage was low.
But almost an equal number reported being willing to limit time listening to music and access to other excessively noisy situations to protect their teenager’s hearing, according to results published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
On the whole, parents seemed willing to take steps to protect their kids, but often underestimated the risks of too much loud music.
“I think it just means that we have work to do in terms of raising awareness,” Sekhar said.
The problem is that everything in life is louder. Television programing and commercials are louder. Video games are louder. We seem to always need to have something turned on and playing: a TV, stereo, computer, cell phone. It seems that people are afraid of quiet, perhaps finding loneliness in silence.
I know my hearing is in trouble. I like my music loud. I like being wired to modern media (I’d rather read my newspaper on an iPad than the real thing). As I get older (and realize I need to hear well to use a stethoscope), I’m more aware of the loudness around me. I try to keep the volume down on the iPod (I try). Doyle has some advice:
Parents could think about making use of volume-limiting headphones and volume controls on portable listening devices. They should also talk with their teen about using hearing protection in places where it is clear there is going to be a lot of noise, like concerts, shop class or outside while mowing the lawn.
“For example, one of the big things I see is teens mowing the lawn over the summer with their earbuds in,” Sekhar said. “Think about how loud a lawnmower is and how high the volume has to be turned up on the iPod for them to hear over that noise.”
Raising awareness that hearing protection is important is a good place to start, she said. The more parents know, the more likely they will be to step in.