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Hearing Loss Rising Among U.S. Children

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Friday, December 12, 2008 12:16 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Protecting Your Family, Children's Health, Hearing Loss, Tinnitus, Noise-Induced Hearing Loss


IMAGE SOURCE:© Turn it to the Left / American Academy of Audiology

Hearing loss among children and young adults is rising in the United States, reports the Children’s Hearing Institute and one-third of the damage is caused by noise.

An estimated one child in every eight has noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), according to the American Academy of Audiology. That means some five million children have a preventable disability that will be with them for life.

The academy has launched a “Turn it to the Left” campaign, meaning turn the volume down. The goal of this campaign is to raise public awareness about the risks of NIHL, while also educating kids, parents and teachers on how to prevent it.

Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by damage to the hair cells that are found in our inner ear. Hair cells are small sensory cells that convert the sounds we hear (sound energy) into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged our hair cells cannot grow back, causing permanent hearing loss.

Tinnitus, a continuous noise in the ear as ringing, buzzing, clicking, can also be the result.

The problem is often not detected until the child develops persistent ringing in the ears or having behavior or learning problems in school because of trouble understanding speech.

While newborns are routinely screened for hearing loss, there is no federal mandate for screening the hearing of school-age children. Testing that it often does, fails to check hearing at high enough pitches found a federal research team in the journal Pediatrics.

Hearing loss is a common disability in the United States, affecting more than 36 million people. One in three developed their hearing loss as a result of exposure to noise.

Noise Surrounds Us

We live in a noise filled world. The young and the old are surrounded by sounds over which we may have little or no control: car and house alarms, sirens, motorcycles, snow blowers and more.

We attend sports events and rock concerts at which the music is so loud you can hardly hear your own thoughts. At home, stereos and televisions blast at volumes so high the phone often rings unanswered.

Many “modern” restaurants have opted for noise enhancement rather than reduction. Tried lately to have a conversation in a school cafeteria at lunchtime?

Each time you shout to be heard by someone standing near you, your hearing is most likely to be in a decibel danger zone.

Our children are surrounded with loud, noisy toys and personal listening devices that can have a damaging effect on their hearing. Toys that meet the safety standard of the American Society of Testing and Materials can produce up to 138 (dB), as loud as a jet taking off.

The loudness of sound is measured in units called decibels (dB).

Protect Young Ears

Parents should first listen to noise-making toys before purchasing them to determine how loud they truly are.

Children that play stereo equipment and computer games should be warned to keep the sound down. Time spent in arcades should be limited. Most MP3 players and iPods have a function that allows parents to set maximum volume settings.

Avoid loud movies. Children that participate in bands or use power tools should use hearing protection which is available at the pharmacy or sporting good stores.

The League for the Hard of Hearing encourages quiet time activities such as reading, puzzles, art, and visiting libraries and museums. #

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