Hearing loss becoming more prevalent in youths


Eat your vegetables, play outside and turn down those headphones: most young people have probably heard these life tips from at least one adult before. Now, parents everywhere can take a collective sigh of relief because, once again, they have science on their side.

A study by Colorado University found that teens tend play their music louder than adults and are largely unaware of the dangerous auditory levels to which they are exposing themselves. The researchers then went on to explore the strong correlation between extended exposure to loud volumes and hearing loss.

Though the emergence of iPods and MP3 players is the largest contributing factor to the growing percentage of hearing loss among youths, any heavy noise can damage hearing, according to the study.

“Any kind of acoustic signal…It doesn’t matter what category the signal is, once it reaches a certain intensity level, it can produce permanent hearing loss or permanent damage to your ear,” said Robert Garcia, assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders.

Researchers have found that hearing loss is largely ignored by the collegiate community. In a study by the University of Southern Mississippi, researchers found that nearly 55 percent of college students set their portable personal music devices (PPMD) to the ‘very loud’ setting — a classification of any volume that exceeds 85 decibels.

“I think our generation will mostly be deaf one day, to be honest, and for some reason I’m not really worried about it,” said Kristy Johnson, junior in architecture.

Garcia said he recognizes that probably no college student is going to stop listening to his/her iPod, so he suggests that the volume stay at a reasonable level — something that people can figure out on their own.

“If you have to shout over something to be heard, then it’s loud enough to damage your ears,” Garcia said

Garcia said that earplugs should be used if one is regularly exposing himself or herself to loud noises. Ethan Wagner, junior in music education and member of the K-State drumline, can attest to the effects of not using earplugs.

“If I don’t wear earplugs, my ears ring, and everything sounds muffled for a while,” Wagner said.

That ‘ringing’ is a sign of temporary and possibly permanent hearing damage caused by exposure to loud noise.

If one simply cannot live without loud music, Garcia recommends that the music be turned off for at least 10-15 minutes per hour to give ears a break and allow the brain to recalibrate.

“As soon as you turn something off and then you turn it back on, the brain automatically recalibrates to the new loudness,“ Garcia said.

Over time, the ear readjusts to a new standard of what is considered ‘loud’ — aka hearing loss.

“IPods are here to stay, and everybody loves to listen to their music. You just have to be aware that it’s very easy to get it at a level that’s too loud. It’s just a matter of, if you do turn it up, to periodically turn it down a little bit,” Garcia said.