Headphones and Hearing Loss: Is Loud Music Making Teens Deaf?

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Is he enjoying his music a bit too much? (istockphoto)

(CBS) All the warnings about the risks of listening to loud music may be falling on deaf ears.

Hearing loss in teenagers is about 30 percent higher now than it was in the 1980s and 1990s, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Assocation.

The study showed that one in five teens, about 6.5 million individuals, have some form of hearing loss.

The finding came as a surprise to researchers, according to Science News. They expected to see a drop in rates of hearing loss, thanks to widespread warnings about the risks posed by listening to loud music and to wider use of vaccines that prevent certain ear infections that can lead to hearing loss.

But the data - from almost 3,000 boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 19 - showed otherwise.

Hearing loss is more common among boys than girls, the study found. And teens from poor families are more likely to have hearing loss.

It's not clear whether listening to music with "earbud" type headphones increased the risk. Nor did the study point the finger at iPods or any other particular music-playing device.

But teens are listening to music twice as long as teens of previous generations and at higher volumes, Brian Fligor, an audiologist at Children's Hospital Boston, told the New York Daily News.

"Teenagers really underestimate how much noise they are exposed to, lead researcher Dr. Josef Shargorodsky, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told the Associated Press.

And they're paying the price for their heedlessness.

Study co-author Dr. Sharon Curhan, also of Brigham and Women's Hospital, said hearing loss can hamper learning, according to Science News. And kids who don't hear well can seem quirky or offbeat because they don't respond appropriately to "subtle peer to peer interactions."

"Our hope is that this study will raise awareness of hearing loss among adolescents because there are things they can do to limit the risk," she said.

Sounds like good advice. Is anybody listening?

  • David W Freeman

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