Hearing Loss: The Risk to Teens is Real and Irreversible

Are you looking for a way to talk to your teens about hearing loss? You should be. One in five teens now suffers from hearing loss, most of which is noise-induced, which is 100% preventable. It is hard to get through to teens who often feel physically invincible and more concerned with peer pressure than parental guidance. Yet, they need to understand the serious risks. Hearing damage is irreversible. There is no cure.

Hearing loss and teens

Here’s a letter I used with my children. Feel free to share it with your own:

Dear Kids:

Did you know that 20% of you now have some form of hearing loss? You probably thought it was only for old folks, or people born deaf. But hearing loss is real, and growing, and there is currently no cure.

The statistics are frightening and the repercussions of hearing damage are permanent. But it’s not really your fault. You haven’t been educated about hearing loss. Here is a quick lesson.

Your Hearing is Fragile

Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when the sensory cells inside the cochlea of your inner ear are damaged. These cells are very sensitive, which allows us to hear a full range of tones, but also very delicate. When exposed to loud noise on a frequent basis, these cells weaken and eventually die, and once they do, they are gone for good. Scientists have not yet found a way to regenerate hair cells, although organizations like Hearing Health Foundation and Stanford Initiative To Cure Hearing Loss are working on it.

What are the facts?

Prolonged exposure to any noise at or above 85 decibels can cause gradual hearing loss. This is the level of heavy city traffic or a school cafeteria. At 105 decibels, the maximum volume of an iPod, some hearing loss can occur within 15 minutes. At 110 decibels, the level of a rock concert or loud sporting event, damage can occur after one minute.

Hearing Loss Is No Fun

Take it from someone with hearing loss — you don’t want it. Hearing loss is isolating. It makes it harder to enjoy socializing, especially in restaurants and bars with lots of background noise, as it becomes harder to pick out the human voices amid all the other noise. You may find yourself missing the joke when everyone is laughing or starting to avoid certain friends whose voices you cannot hear well.

Listening to music also becomes less fun because you may not be able to hear certain instruments or the full range of vocal tones.

Keeping up at school and at work becomes more difficult. You may miss important instructions or key pieces of a lecture, especially if your teacher has his or her back turned. You might also sleep through your alarm if you cannot hear it.

Life also becomes more dangerous, particularly if you have cannot hear smoke alarms or other warning bells, which are often high-pitched. High pitches are typically the first to be lost in noise-induced hearing loss.

Hearing Aids Don’t Work Like Glasses

Sure, hearing aids are available, and do help a great deal, but hearing aids will not restore your hearing back to normal, like glasses or contacts do for most vision problems. They are also not very good at picking out the sounds you want to hear. For example, if you are at a party, hearing aids will augment the sounds of your friends’ voices, but also the clinking of glasses, and the hum of the A/C or heating unit. Picking out the right sounds can often be harder with the hearing aids than without them.

Hearing aids also change the way music sounds. Most hearing aids are digital, which can make music sound tinny and synthesized. You will miss the richness of the tones and the contrasts of the harmonies.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss is 100% Preventable

The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss is entirely preventable. You have the power to protect your ears. Use it. Follow these simple rules and you can enjoy better hearing your whole life through.

1. Turn it down. Enjoy your music, but listen at a safe level. Fifteen minutes at maximum volume on your iPod is all it takes to damage your hearing. Listening time is cumulative so you can listen longer at lower volumes and stay safe. Try noise-canceling headphones which block out background noise, allowing you to enjoy your music at lower volumes.

2. Block the noise. Wear earplugs or earmuffs at concerts or sporting events. They come in many sizes and styles. Some are even made specifically for listening to music.

3. Move away. The farther you are from the noise, the safer it is. Always pick a seat far away from loud speakers and if you see a noisy construction site, cross the street.

Want more information? Visit It’s A Noisy Planet, a website run by the National Institutes of Health.


Note to Self: On Parenting Teens 

Teen Brain: What Parents Need to Know 

Hearing loss advocate: Shari Eberts Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer and avid Bikram yogi, serving on the Board of Trustees of both Hearing Health Foundation and Hearing Loss Association of America. Her bylines include The Huffington Post, Good Housekeeping, Healthy Living Magazine, The Good Men Project, The Hearing Journal, Hearing Loss Magazine, and Hearing Health Magazine. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing loss. Connect with Shari on her Blog, Facebook and Twitter or LinkedIn.

About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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