By Cammie Jones

Do you remember going to a concert as a teen, and after leaving the show how your ears would be ringing and you couldn’t hear normal voices? This hearing loss was only temporary as by the next day, your hearing was restored. I always wondered if this loss of hearing would have any lingering effects later in life (When I got “old” — which I was never going to do, by the way). Now that I have teenagers, I do worry about their ability to hear with the constant use of electronic devices and ear buds.

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports that around 28 million Americans have lost some or all of their hearing. This statistic includes 17 in 1,000 children under age 18 who have experienced hearing loss.

I contacted Amanda Battey, AuD at Augusta Hearing and Balance, and she had some information to share about this topic as well as a few tips to help prevent hearing loss. “Most people think that hearing loss is just something that happens in old age.  This just isn’t true. Hearing loss is becoming more common in teenagers,” says Battey.  She says she has seen many teenagers in her office recently with hearing loss, and the main reason is the use of ear buds.

Loud sound levels can permanently damage the tiny nerve endings (hair cells) in the inner ear.  One of the warning signs of noise damage to the nerve endings is a ringing in the ears, called tinnitus, especially after hearing a loud noise or loud music.  Usually, you can recover from this type of hearing loss but if the ear is exposed over longer periods of time, the hair cells can be further damaged causing permanent hearing issues. “Using ear buds properly and in moderation can help prevent hearing loss,” Battey adds.

Here are a few tips to aid in reducing the possibility of hearing loss:

1. The 60/60 Rule.

Prevention is the key to stopping hearing loss in teens. “One way to prevent hearing loss while wearing ear buds is to use the 60/60 rule: Listen to music or play video games at 60 percent of the maximum volume for only 60 minutes at a time,” Battey advises.

If the maximum safe volume is at 85 decibals, then 60 percent of this would be a 51 decibal level. Set a timer when your child begins listening and when the hour is up, it’s time to take a break from the earbuds. Of course, it will be harder to implement in teenagers but explaining the reasons for these rules early on will hopefully allow them to understand and adhere to the rules set foth.

2. Limit the Volume.

Battey says that anything louder than an 85 decibal level is considered too loud and can cause hearing loss.  The maximum output level on ear buds is about 100 decibals. Volume limits can be set on your child’s electronic devices usually under the “Settings” app. There are also parental restrictions you can set to limit the maximum volume on your child’s device that he cannot change on his own.  Again, explaining to your teenager the reason behind these rules will help.

3. Ear Plugs.

Wearing hearing protection such as foam ear plugs can also help prevent hearing loss. You can purchase these at your local drug store or superstore. If you are worried about your teen not being comfortable in them, Battey has a solution for that.  “Custom or personalized ear plugs can be made by an audiologist to fit in your ear perfectly,” says Battey.

It will be interesting to see how the use of earbuds and electronic devices affects the overall hearing in the future for our children. Using the information we do know today and with a few preventative actions, we can help ensure that our kids will be enjoying their favorite tunes for a long time.



Loud Activities that 

can Cause Hearing Loss 

(dB = decibal):

Concerts (110dB-125dB)

Stock car races (96dB-104dB)

Shotgun (160dB)

Fire cracker (150dB)

Motor cycles (95dB)

Lawnmowers (90dB)

Loudness of Everyday Sounds (dB = decibal):

Whispering (30dB)

Normal Conversations (60dB)

Cars to a close observer (60-80dB)

This article appears in the September 2017 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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