Every generation has its own music, whether its rock n’ roll, disco, punk or hip hop. However, what is different for today’s children and youth is not what they are listening to, but how they are listening. Rocking a pair of pricy ear buds could be a sign of the times, but it might also be damaging the hearing of a whole generation of kids.
Personal music players such as iPods and MP3s are everywhere. Their size and power have made music truly portable. They are an ubiquitous part of every teen’s life and even younger children seem to own or have access to these mini music makers. However, there is a dangerous downside to the technology when it is used incorrectly.
Prior to the introduction of MP3 players, hearing loss among children was estimated at around 12.5 percent. However, more recent studies, estimate that 20 percent of teenagers suffer from permanent noise induced hearing loss.
Sound volume is measured in units called decibels (dB). Extended exposure to sounds at 85 dB or more can potentially cause temporary or permanent hearing loss.
Many teens feel that they need to increase the volume on their music player to truly “enjoy the music”. Young people listen at overly high volumes without realizing that they may be damaging their hearing. The situation is especially dangerous when they wear ear buds, because they are designed to direct the music straight into the ear canal.
Volume is not the only issue. The length of time that you listen to loud music can also lead to hearing loss. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, being exposed to more than 85 decibels of sound (about the level that teens listen to their music today on MP3s) for eight hours can damage your hearing. Modern MP3 players can easily store thousands of songs, which may encourage users to listen for longer periods of time.
Other Sources of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Youth
It is important to note that a 5 decibel increase in intensity (loudness) reduces the safe exposure time by half. This means that the average rock music concert (110dB) begins to take its toll on kid’s hearing after just half an hour. Teenagers who attend loud concerts or clubs often experience ear ringing afterwards. This is a sign that transient hearing loss has occurred. Other causes of noise induced hearing loss can include motorcycles, firearms and fireworks.