According to the New Jersey Speech-Language-Hearing Association, a World Health Organization study estimated that more than one billion adolescents and young adults worldwide are at risk of hearing loss due to chronic exposure to high noise levels.
And once hearing loss occurs, it’s irreversible, said Michele McGlynn, audiologist and NJSHA member.
The increased reliance on personal devices brought about by the remote learning conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped matters, according to McGlynn.
“Kids would walk to their classes and just listen – even in their downtime between classes, they often tune in for long periods of time,” she said.
More than anything, McGlynn said, it’s this extended period that’s most damaging, and although the trend started with a period of isolation, children continue to turn up the volume even though their lives have returned somewhat. to normal.
According to the NJSHA, about 1 in 8 (12.5%) children between the ages of 6 and 19 have experienced some kind of hearing loss due to excessive exposure.
“A lot of times they’re in noisier environments now, whether it’s that noisy school bus, whether it’s the train they’re taking, whether they’re going to a gym and there’s music playing. at a high level,” McGlynn said.
The first telltale signs of hearing loss can be a buzzing or rushing sensation in the ear, increased sensitivity, or muffled sounds.
McGlynn said these symptoms are how the ear reacts to its internal mechanisms and the overloading of hair fibers.
“As young adults or teenagers, we all remembered going to concerts or leaving a place and having that ringing or muffled sound,” she said. “And that’s a sign.”
With these formative experiences in mind, McGlynn said, much of the responsibility for educating children about the importance of their hearing falls on parents.
Routine screening at school or even at a pediatrician’s office may not be enough to truly diagnose a problem, as McGlynn recommends a basic hearing test.
Proper precautions certainly help. Parents and kids might not know that most modern phones have a headphone level limit that can be set or controlled through an app.
Noise canceling headphones are also recommended in situations where ambient noise is loud.
“I’ll see kids outside mowing the lawn and they don’t have hearing protection or earmuffs on, but you see them with AirPods,” McGlynn said. “And that’s just another simple example of noise.”
For more guidance, NJSHA suggests checking out the “Noisy Planet” page run by the National Institutes of Health.
Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]
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