Major increase in adolescent hearing loss

Maybe you just think your teenager isn’t listening. Perhaps she can’t hear you. You might think about having him turn down the volume on his MP3 player - not so he can hear you better but to prevent him from going deaf.

A study in Wednesday’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the prevalence of hearing loss among adolescents ages 12 to 19 has increased 30 percent in recent years. Researchers from Harvard and Vanderbilt universities compared two large groups of children who participated in national health surveys in 1988-1994 (2,928 participants) and 2005-2006 (1,771 participants).

All the participating teens had their hearing tested as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) The prevalence of hearing loss increased from 14.9 percent during the first period to 19.5 percent in the second.

The study did not identify the cause for the increase but suggested that “loud sound exposure from music listening may be of particular importance.”

The two time periods happen to be before and after the first of Apple Computer’s popular iPod devices was released in October 2001.

Most of the hearing loss identified in the study was slight, but there was a significant increase in “mild or worse” hearing loss, from 3.5 percent in the earlier survey to 5.3 percent (one in 20 adolescents) in the latter – a 77 percent jump.

“Further studies are needed to determine reasons for this increase and to identify potential modifiable risk factors to prevent the development of hearing loss,” the researchers concluded.

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