How can I help protect my teen's hearing?

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David M. Vernick, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (Otolaryngology)
If you know a teen who wears earbuds frequently, ask him or her to turn the volume down long enough to hear some sound advice that could mean avoiding hearing aids in the future.

MP3 players, such as iPods, with their long-lasting battery power and sound levels capable of reaching 115 dB, enable users to listen for hours upon hours to an endless stream of very loud music. Earbuds placed inside the ear canal boost sound delivered to the listener even more.

A study of 29 teenage iPod users found that teens play their iPods louder than young adults and are unaware of how loud they are playing them. Researchers at Children's Hospital Boston and Colorado University asked study participants to set their iPod volumes in several varying levels of background noise. The teens were asked to estimate how loud they typically listen and describe their perceptions about their risk for developing hearing loss. They found that a small but significant percentage of adolescents are putting themselves at risk for music-induced hearing loss and that teens who understand the benefits of reining in the volume were at lower risk of hearing loss.

Study authors recommend reducing the amount of time spent listening to an hour a day at a volume level of around 6 if 10 is the highest volume. The more you cut the volume, the longer you can listen. Noise-canceling headphones that block out background noise are helpful because you don't have to turn the volume as high to hear the music, but these are not always practical because they are expensive. Some teens like to plug their MP3 players into speakers. Spending more time listening through the speakers is better because the sound is diffused, and not delivered directly through the ear canal.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.