Teen Hearing Loss On The Rise

One group of Americans has 6.5 million people with hearing loss.  But perhaps the most alarming part of that fact, is that the group is our nation's teenagers.

 Just a couple years ago, Hearing Instrument Specialist Dusty Potter saw about one child every three months for hearing exams.  Recently that number has jumped significantly.

"Now what's happening is a lot of children are failing their hearing screenings in the schools, they're coming back here for verification, and usually now it's about two or three a week," Potter said.

A study published  by the American Medical Association shows that nearly 20% of teens have at least a slight loss of hearing.  That trend is comparable in Wichita Falls, too.  Potter says one reason is the most prevalent.

"MP3s and iPods, that's the most common reason that we're seeing," he said.

To give you an idea of the damaging possibilities, listening to music at 85 decibels for just a few minutes can cause hearing loss.  Most MP3 players have a maximum volume of 105 decibels.  On top of that, younger people have smaller ear canals, meaning they get an automatic volume boost compared to adults.

The recommendation is for everyone to get their hearing checked once a year, no matter their age.

"High school is where nowadays, those are the kids who are really listening to their music players more often than anyone else, so I think it should be done in high schools if it's not right now," Potter said.

A teenager who is starting to lose hearing might not even notice initially, although there are some things that can tip you off.

"Early signs would be, people seem to mumble, so if it seems like people are mumbling, and then no on else thinks so, then we've probably got a hearing loss starting," Potter said.

To protect your ears, you can usually lower the maximum volume on your MP3 player, and use better-fitting ear buds to help to seal off outside noise.  That way your hearing won't be here today, and gone tomorrow.

Doctors say nerve-based hearing loss is not only permanent, but it's also progressive; once the damage has occurred it will only get worse with time, even if a person changes habits later on.

Spencer Blake, Newschannel 6