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Think about a typical day and estimate how much time you spend wearing either headphones or earbuds. (You may even be wearing them right now while reading this post). With the high-end headphones on the market, it is easy to channel intense levels of music and sound through the headphone devices. The companies that produce the headphones and earbuds tout their high level of concentrated music and ‘noise-reduction’ qualities. While the sound may indeed be spectacular, doctors are warning users of the increased probability of impending hearing loss.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 12.5% of children ages 6 to 19 years and 17% of adults ages 20 – 69 have suffered permanent damage to their hearing from high exposure to noise. According to the American Osteopathic Association, 1 in 5 teenagers has some level of hearing loss; this number is 30% higher as compared to statistics from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The increase is believed to be a result of more children and adults using headphones and earbuds that are specifically designed to enhance the level of music directly into the ears. According to osteopathic pediatrician, James E. Foy, DO, "Listening through headphones at a high volume for extended periods of time can result in lifelong hearing loss for children and teens," and "Even a mild hearing loss due to excessive noise could lead to developmental delays in speech and language."
Children and adults have worn headphones for decades, so why now are we more concerned than ever before about hearing loss? Up until the past ten years or so, headphones have not produced the level and intensity of sound that they do now. Additionally, we no longer use records, cassette tapes, or even CD’s. Much of what we listen to is downloaded directly on to an mp3 player or iPod type of device. Walk in to any drug store, grocery store, even gas stations and next to the cash register you can pick up a set of earbuds. We use earbuds even to have phone conversations now! The amount of time kids and adults spend wearing the devices has increased a great deal as compared with decades past. And now we are finding out the results, and it is not good.
More and more, reports from doctors and scientists have appeared in the news. Warnings to parents and kids about the potential for noise-induced hearing loss have increased dramatically and there is very real concern for a totally preventable health problem. Parents do not always check the level of noise emanating from their children’s headphones. Even adults may enjoy the intense level of sound from the earbuds without realizing the damage that they are inflicting upon themselves.
As you read through the following newspaper articles that have recently covered hearing problems associated with wearing headphones and earbuds, think about your own level of use with these devices. Consider the implications that various researcher and doctors have determined and consider the research. Maybe you will want to take the headphones off or at least turn the volume down – even just a little.