When the words “hearing loss” are spoken, people tend to think of the elderly. But about 1.1 billion teens and young adults are “at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe use of personal devices … nightclubs, bars and sporting events,” according to a study done by the World Health Organization.
Robert Garcia, clinical associate professor and audiology supervisor, said that students are continually putting themselves at risk, but they are unaware of the damage until many years later.
“I can’t say that I’ve seen a trend, because you have to remember that number one: most hearing loss occurs very gradually,” Garcia said. “Unless you are around something like an explosion or a shot gun which … can cause instantaneous permanent hearing loss.”
Since hearing loss is gradual, students are not likely to realize the damage they are causing by listening loud music for long periods of time.
“I listen to music for a good part of every day, about four to six hours,” Cameron Sougey, senior in pre-professional secondary education, said. “And usually my volume is pretty loud, I’m not going to lie.”
Because the damage is not noticeable at first, many students do not go to the doctor for a checkup, let alone realize that they are hurting their ears.
“I don’t see a lot of college students coming in and saying, ‘Gosh, I don’t think I’m hearing that well,’” Garcia said. “College students are starting off with very normal hearing, so in the early stages if they lose a little bit of hearing it’s concerning, but it’s not causing them to not be able to function in the class room.”
The World Health Organization’s studies have shown that the louder the sound, the shorter the time it takes to cause damage. Some students do realize that they are damaging their ears, but do not plan on changing their habits.
“I definitely have hearing problems and I definitely think its related to the music,” Sougey said. “But sometimes it’s just better if it’s loud. If the song is emotional or you’re into it, its just gotta be loud.”
Other students that realize they are affecting their future, however, are planning to start healthier habits.
“I listen to my music about 75 percent of the day,” Brandon Reid, junior in construction science and management, said. “My volume is fairly loud, but that’s gonna change though because my ears are starting to hurt.”
Both WHO and Garcia recommend students protect their ears by keeping the volume down, using ear plugs at sporting events, using canceling headphones and shortening the amount of time exposed to loud noise.
Brett Butler, junior in music education, said he believes the subject should be widely taught to help all students keep their hearing healthy.
“It’s a good topic and it should definitely be covered in classes,” Butler said. “There are too many kids around this age experiencing (hearing loss) that aren’t going to realize it until it’s too late.”
Another way for students to protect their hearing is to limit noisy activities and take short breaks from noise. The louder the noise, the shorter amount of time it takes to damage the ears.
“Whether it’s a bar, whether its a basketball games, whether its listening to music, it doesn’t matter how the loud sound is getting there or if it’s music or a lawnmower, all the ear cares about is that it is (loud),” Garcia said.