NIHL stands for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), and it is the reason that hearing loss is a growing health issue worldwide. The Hearing Health Foundation goes so far as to say, “globally, it is an unseen epidemic.”
While you might assume that this health issue only affects the elderly or Baby Boomers who attended too many Woodstocks, teenagers are among those being hit hardest by NIHL.
“One in five teenagers suffer from at least slight hearing loss, a significant rise from a decade ago, when the rate was only one in seven.” This is according to a 2010 story in the New York Times based on a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
The article went on to say, “… youngsters often say they are not being exposed to loud noise because they are simply unaware they are listening to music at dangerously high levels, said the paper’s lead author...”
Another reputable source, the Journal of Pediatrics, reports that 12.5 percent of kids between the ages of 6 and 19 suffer from loss of hearing as a result of using ear phones/buds turned to a high volume.
If you extrapolate these figures, it means 4 to 6.5 million teenagers have lost enough hearing to be unable to hear a whisper or rustling leaves. And they will never get it back. Damage to auditory nerves is permanent and cumulative. By the time these teens are retirement age, they may have a debilitating hearing loss.
It’s a noisy world, and getting louder by the day. (Check out this website sponsored by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders) Most kids are exposed to too much noise – dishwashers, blenders, televisions, cafeterias, sirens, firecrackers, jet engines, MP3 players – and over time, exposure to loud noise can cause NIHL.
Sound is measured in decibels. Even after long exposure, sounds of less than 75 decibels are unlikely to cause hearing loss. As the decibel level goes up, however, the risk of damage increases. At 85 decibels and above, long or repeated exposure can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the time it takes to damage hearing.
Consider that the average MP3 player has an output of 105 decibels. If your child listens to music at anywhere near maximum volume for prolonged periods, he or she is losing a little bit of hearing every day.