Education Parenting Technology

Turn Down The Noise

I am reposting an article that was published on August 17, 2010 by Carla K. Johnson, a medical writer. I cannot tell you how many times I have sat in the halls at the community college where I work, and have heard students approach before I have ever seen them coming. So many of them wear their ear buds between classes, to get from point A to point B, I have often thought the constant noise has to be having some kind of impact on their hearing.

Turns out, it is.

Study: 1 in 5 US teenagers has slight hearing loss

CHICAGO — A stunning one in five teens has lost a little bit of hearing, and the problem has increased substantially in recent years, a new national study has found. Some experts are urging teenagers to turn down the volume on their digital music players, suggesting loud music through earbuds may be to blame – although hard evidence is lacking. They warn that slight hearing loss can cause problems in school and set the stage for hearing aids in later life.

“Our hope is we can encourage people to be careful,” said the study’s senior author, Dr. Gary Curhan of Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

The researchers analyzed data on 12- to 19-year-olds from a nationwide health survey. They compared hearing loss in nearly 3,000 kids tested from 1988-94 to nearly 1,800 kids tested over 2005-06.

While the researchers didn’t single out iPods or any other device for blame, they found a significant increase in high-frequency hearing loss, which they said may indicate that noise caused the problems. And they cited a 2010 Australian study that linked use of personal listening devices with a 70 percent increased risk of hearing loss in children.

“I think the evidence is out there that prolonged exposure to loud noise is likely to be harmful to hearing, but that doesn’t mean kids can’t listen to MP3 players,” Curhan said.

Loud music isn’t new, of course. Each new generation of teenagers has found a new technology to blast music _ from the bulky headphones of the 1960s to the handheld Sony Walkmans of the 1980s. [But] today’s young people are listening longer, more than twice as long as previous generations, said Brian Fligor, an audiologist at Children’s Hospital Boston. The older technologies had limited battery life and limited music storage, he said.

[And] some young people turn their digital players up to levels that would exceed federal workplace exposure limits, said Fligor. In Fligor’s own study of about 200 New York college students, more than half listened to music at 85 decibels or louder. That’s about as loud as a hair dryer or a vacuum cleaner.

Bottom line, if you can hear someone’s music playing while their earbuds are in, they are probably listening to their music at too loud of a decibel. And while they may hate you, you would be doing them a big favor in asking them to dial down the noise.

Do you let your kids use ear buds? Do you feel they use them at a reasonable listening level? Would you feel comfortable asking a stranger to turn down his/her music?

8 thoughts on “Turn Down The Noise

  1. I can’t believe I missed this one! Do you ever recall your parents saying to turn down the music you will ruin your ears? I heard that all the time! I sat for many hours in a small room or basement listening to my friends bands and when you would leave your ears would be ringing! I didn’t have them in my ears, (grinning here) but I do believe they had a point! I know I don’t hear as well as I used to. Now they are putting those things in their ears and cranking it! That just can not be good! I too have sat next to or walked past people with iPods, and I can hear their music as plain as day! I think there is a valid point in this bloggy! I would think if the person sitting next to you on a loud train can hear your song, you need to turn it down people. It just can’t be good for your ears and you only get one pair =D

  2. My husband just said, “Yeah, I used to do that, too.” I replied, “But not directly IN your ear, with an earbud.” He said, “What’s the difference, when you have a Cerwin-Vega speaker.” I guess that was the legendary speaker system of the ’80s.

    Anyway. I was at the public library recently and I could hear another patron’s music as he was using a computer. I didn’t want to ask him to turn it down, even though it was the only sound/noise in the room. Felt intimidated. I could have asked the librarian to handle it – but I was only in that part of the library for a few minutes.

  3. I will be happy to tell them to dial down that noise. I also will explain why they should. Hearing loss can definitely be from high frequency. Thanks for the article.

  4. I’m guilty of pumping loud music into my head at times although I do think about potential damage. I’m always sensitive to people around me though too. I don’t feel comfortable saying anything to strangers, and I see the same thing as you, students constantly plugged in and jamming. I probably worry more about what cell phones are doing to our brains than anything, but the 1 in 5 stat is thought-provoking.

  5. My kids have to listen to music at an appropriate level. If I can hear it clearly then they have it too loud. My hearing flat out sucks from all the loud concerts and music festivals I went to every year growing up so I am a bit conscience of my kids hearing. I would not feel comfortable telling a stranger to turn it down. That is invading their privacy, I know I can hear it and could easily argue it is invading mine too but I like to give grace and not be a nag.

  6. Oh kid really loves music. I even gave him a really good pair of earphones; I thought it might develop his talent in music, if he has any. Will make sure he uses them right. Thanks for the advice!

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