We are fortunate to be living in a time of abundant creativity and technology. One of the biggest things to gain popularity in recent decades are personal music players; first it was the Walkman, then the Discman, followed by mp3 players and iPods. Today, it seems like every teen in Calgary has a smartphone with headphones plugged in and, while it’s great that they can take their entertainment with them and explore new genres, they are also at an increased risk for hearing loss.
The inner part of the ear is covered in very fine hairs with nerve endings that transfer sound waves into electrical signals. These electrical signals transfer to the brain and your brain translates them into what we perceive as sound. Unfortunately, exposing these delicate hairs to loud noises or prolonged exposure to sound waves can damage them. This is how Noise Induced Hearing Loss happens.
According to a 2010 study, hearing loss in American adolescents increased by 30% between 1998 and 2006. That study is several years old now, and we can estimate that the number has only increased in the time since as more and more teens listen to their music at top volume with headphones on.
(The Hearing Foundation of Canada / SoundSense.ca)
So just how loud is your teen’s music? When iPhones and mp3 players are turned up to full volume, the decibel level that is emitted from the headphones is about 100 decibels or more.
Telling your teen to turn down the music repeatedly probably isn’t going to work as well as you would like it to. So the first step is to invest in a great set of headphones. Earbud style headphones should not be used as they don’t block out any outside sounds. This means that people have a tendency to turn the music up even louder to blog out the noise.
A pair of comfortable headphones that surround the ear will help to block out noise. In addition, a high quality set of headphones will deliver a better sound with richer tones and deeper bass. Because the sound quality is better and the base is more audible, your teenager won’t have to turn up the volume as much to hear the song the way it was meant to be heard.
You can also encourage your teen to reduce the length of time that they listen to their music or wear their headphones. Again, prolonged exposure to noise can cause hearing damage so it is important to break up the music sessions. Even at 85 dB, prolonged exposure can lead to permanent hearing damage.
Lastly, many smartphones have safeguards that will allow you to set maximum volume limits. This is particularly true of Apple iOS devices like iPhones and iPods. Below is a video that will show you how to set volume limits on your child’s iPhone and then lock the setting so that they can’t go back in and change it.
If you’re concerned about your child or teen’s hearing and would like to have them tested for hearing loss, you can give the team at Academy Hearing Centres a call at 403-210-2482 to schedule an appointment.