Hearing problems in youth increase: what you can do about it

One of my favorite comic strips is called Zits. It follows a stereotypical low achiever teenage boy and his exasperated parents. I laugh now because I am no longer a teenager and can remember those painful parental exchanges. This baggy pant wearing, rock band playing slacker is an over the top stereotype, but easy to relate to.

The lead character, Jeremy, is often found with ear buds in each ear, ignoring his mother’s pleas to clean his room. And it seems like everyone nowadays is listening to head phones more often avoiding human contact in favor of their favorite tunes.

This has experts worried. Not about the agoraphobic tendencies of today’s youth (that is another argument and article all on its own), but about the physical problems about listening to so much music.

Hearing loss has increased rapidly in the last decade. Many people could attribute that to the fact that the senior population is growing rapidly as the baby boomers enter senior citizen territory. And seniors are the ones who generally suffer from hearing loss. While this may be true, that is not what is worrying experts. It is the fact that hearing loss is occurring at a much younger age. And that has experts panicked.

While music itself is not too blame. (We’re not going to go all Footloose on you and try and ban music.) It is the fact that teens- and frankly, older people as well- are listening to ear buds. For those of you living in a cave, ear buds are headphones that are popularized by Apple’s iPod. It is small headphones that sit in the ear cavity. They are small and do not cover the whole ear, but are fitted to fill the entire ear opening. The constant music and high volumes are causing serious hearing loss. And the worst part is that the hearing loss in unrepairable.

All is not lost! Just because you are a music loving teen/adult does not mean you have to forgo music in favor of hearing when you are old. Here are some simple tips that can help you avoid hearing loss before you are a geriatric.

  • Turn down the volume.  Half of your iPod or other music device’s volume is the max you should ever let blast into your ears. Find it hard to remember? Mp3 players should have a setting that will let you pick a max volume of your choice and it will never let you go above that. Hint, hint parents. Maybe you can switch that setting without you teen knowing.
  • If you notice hearing loss, get tested. Most insurances- like United Health Care insurance, for example- will cover hearing tests. And young children can often get tested through their schools. Early detection will help with rectifying (if possible) and preventing more hearing damage.
  • Buy good headphones. Now you can purchase headphones that are noise-cancelling, which means you can listen to your music without fighting through other noise. Simply, you can enjoy your music at a lower level without other competing noises.