Loud headphones putting young people at risk for hearing damage

May 20, 2016

Young people are often unaware of how easy it is to cause themselves hearing damage when listening to music, says the president of the tinnitus association of Quebec.

"Right now more and more studies are published in the literature stating that the use of portable listening devices are too high," said Sylvie Hébert.

Hébert, who is also professor of psychology in the School of Speech Therapy and Audiology at the University of Montreal, says the tinnitus association — known as Acouphènes Québec —  is seeing more people at a younger age with hearing problems.

"This can cause cumulative damage. Young people don't realise it right away," she said. "At some point they will have a high probability of having hearing loss and tinnitus."

The World Health Organization says 1.1 billion teenagers are at risk of developing damage or hearing loss "due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices and exposure to damaging levels of sound in noisy entertainment venues." 

Damage is permanent 

When the ear is exposed to very loud sounds, Hébert said, the delicate hair cells in the inner ear are damaged.

"Once they're damaged they're gone, they're destroyed and they don't regenerate."

Hearing aids can amplify the sound, but they cannot replicate the clarity and sound quality provided by hair cells.

"If you go to a dance club, and you are exposed to very loud music, as soon as you get out of the dance club sometimes you will have a temporary hearing loss that will recover to some extent; you will have ringing in your ears," she said.

Although people can experience short term hearing damage, it can take years for the damage to lead to hearing loss and tinnitus. 

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