Lots of parents complain from time to time that their teenage children never listen to a word they way. But what if those kids actually can’t hear what mom or dad is saying?
A national survey reveals one out of five teenagers is suffering from a hearing loss so serious that the damage might be permanent. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital not only discovered that more and more children and teens are experiencing hearing loss, but also that most people with hearing problems (65 percent) are younger than 65.
So much for the myth of old people being the recipients of most hearing aids.
What is noise-induced hearing loss?
Every day, we experience sound in our environment from television, radio, household appliances and traffic. Most of the time, these sounds are at safe levels that do not affect our hearing, but when we are exposed to sounds that are too loud or loud sounds that last a long time, hair cells in our inner ear can be damaged. That leads to noise-induced hearing loss. These small sensory cells convert sound energy into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged, they cannot grow back.
Sound volume is measured in units called decibels (dB). Sudden or extended exposure to loud sounds (85 dB or more) can potentially cause temporary or permanent hearing loss. And 85 decibels is not very loud: roughly the volume generated by a kitchen blender.
In this era of iPods and BlueTooth, it is not surprising that people are losing their hearing at ever younger ages, but what can we do about it?
Here are 10 tips on turning down the volume before it’s too late.
1. Get Informed. Know which noises can cause damage: those at or above 85 decibels.
2. Wear earplugs. Always protect your ears while engaging in activities you know are loud, such as attending a rock concert or visiting a shooting range. Special earplugs and earmuffs are available at hardware and sporting goods stores.
3. Be Selective About Your Earphones. In a noisy setting, the sound-isolating kind are best, says Brian Fligor, director of diagnostic audiology at Children’s Hospital Boston: “They block the right proportion of high and low frequencies so you can hear your music at a lower volume.” Regular noise-canceling headphones, however, are less effective, since they block mostly low frequencies.
4. Take Care Of Your Kids. Protect the ears of children who are too young to protect their own.
5. Check Your Child’s Toys. Very loud toys, meaning ones that that emit 90 decibels or more, can be a risk factor, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Hearing experts take the toy risk so seriously, that every November the Sight and Hearing Association publishes a list of the noisiest toys.
6. Insist On A Hearing Test. Despite the prevalence of hearing loss, less than 15 percent of American adults who get a physical exam this year will also have their hearing screened by their physician or nurse during that exam. Request that your doctor test your hearing.
7. Follow Your Instincts. If you suspect hearing loss, have a medical examination by an otolaryngologist (a physician who specializes in diseases of the ears, nose, throat, head and neck) and a hearing test by an audiologist (a health professional trained to measure and help individuals deal with hearing loss).
8. Take A Pill. Alternet reports that the U.S. military, through clinical trials, has discovered that an over-the-counter supplement called N-acetylcysteine worked much better than earplugs alone at minimizing damage in Marines exposed to gunfire. A daily 167-milligram dose of magnesium also seems to offer preventive protection, according to a study by the Israeli military, possible because magnesium helps promote blood flow.
9. Chill Out. After enduring a continuous loud nose like a jackhammer, take a break and chill out in a quiet place for at least a few minutes. Same thing goes for that Bruce Springsteen concert or one of those really loud sports bars.
10. Knowledge Is Power. Be sure to keep family, friends and colleagues aware of the hazards of noise.
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