Noise-induced hearing loss in teens is on the rise. Here’s how to prevent it

As the mother of two teenagers and an audiologist, I’ve always been hyperaware of noise-induced hearing loss and the lasting effects it can have on young people. It may seem like just a minor annoyance to hear your child’s music or phone conversation through their earbuds. After all, they could be up to worse things, right?

While that’s true, it’s also important to consider the permanent damage they could be doing to their hearing. The damage can last much longer than the duration of their favorite song or a conversation with their best friend.

The average pair of earbuds can emit a maximum sound anywhere from 85-110 decibels. After just 15 minutes of exposure, hearing damage can occur. Approximately 40 million Americans have some level of noise-induced hearing loss, and it isn’t just the elderly. In fact, one in seven teens experience this and once damage occurs to the hair cells of the inner ear, it cannot be undone.

The good news is this type of hearing loss is completely preventable, but it may require breaking habits and gentle reminders.

There’s no time like the present to start. As you know, many school districts have been issuing their plans for the 2020-2021 school year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many will be relying on hybrid and distanced learning. As many families prepare to once again have their schools, workplaces and gyms all under one roof during these unusual times, earbud and headphone use is on the rise.

At Starkey, we recommend the following to help prevent noise-induced hearing loss:

  • Keep the volume at 75 decibels or lower. For reference, a typical conversation is around 60 decibels, and a lawnmower is around 90.
  • The 60/60 rule is another great guideline. It suggests limiting listening to 60 minutes while keeping the volume below 60%.
  • Consider noise-cancelling headphones, as opposed to earbuds. When the source of the sound is in your ear canal, like earbuds, the sound’s volume can increase by six to nine decibels (source: UPMC Pinnacle Health). Noise-cancelling headphones reduce ambient noise, allowing you to hear clearly at a lower volume.

While hearing health may not always be top of mind, it’s important to consider how it may be impacted by new behaviors, like working and learning from home. Your ears will thank you now and later!

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By Sara Burdak, Au.D.