Children as young as four years of age have emerged as a new risk group for hearing loss, with Ear Science revealing an increasing number of young people are suffering hearing damage from loud music and computer games.
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There has been a marked increase in the number of young children and teens with temporary and sometimes permanent noise-induced hearing loss through our Lions Hearing Clinic.
Lions Hearing Clinic audiologist Sasha blamed the trend on the growing use of personal music devices and portable DVD players in cars.
“I would say the world is becoming a noisier place,” Sasha said. “Personal listening devices are more accessible to children at younger ages.”
One young client suffered hearing loss after playing loud Xbox computer games and recorded music through a speaker during the school holidays. His hearing improved after the school holidays when he stopped those activities.
Anna said many parents and teachers seemed unaware of how sensitive childrens’ hearing and are allowing them to listen to loud music and movies through earbuds for hours on end. Maximum decibels on personal hearing devices often reached 110 decibels, which was about the same level as a chainsaw. But Anna said the maximum safe sound level for music through earbuds was only 85 decibels.
She recommended young people take a break every 20 minutes to let their ears adjust back to a normal environment.
Shasha said modern testing had made it possible to pinpoint which damage was specifically caused by loud noise because it affected hearing at higher frequencies. She said while the damage was often temporary if the noisy cause of the problem was removed, prolonged exposure could cause permanent damage.
There are few studies on how children have permanently damaged their hearing through listening to loud music, but Ear Science CEO Sandra Bellekom said that the World Health Organization has drawn attention to the fact that over one billion young people worldwide, aged between 12 and 34, are at risk of hearing loss because of their over-exposure to recreational noise.
Ear Science founding director Professor Marcus Atlas warned parents not to let their children play loud music for prolonged periods of time. It was important not to turn up the sound to the point that it drowned out other background noise.
“Hearing loss is emerging in younger age groups now – and that’s due to music played at high volume through earbuds, “ he said. “Eventually, these children will grow up and develop age-related hearing loss, and combined with other events in adulthood, they are going to end up with more hearing loss than they would have had they not had so much noise exposure as a kid.”
“When I first started, it was industrial exposure that was the biggest noise problem. But the industry, employees, unions and government have basically abolished industrial noise-induced hearing loss.”
“Now we have a new group at risk – and that is our kids.”