Are Earbuds Contributing to Hearing Loss in Kids? - 8NEWS - WRIC | News Where You Live

Are Earbuds Contributing to Hearing Loss in Kids?

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No road trip with the kids this summer will be complete without music or DVDs, but you may want to leave their earbuds at home (ABC News). No road trip with the kids this summer will be complete without music or DVDs, but you may want to leave their earbuds at home (ABC News).
RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) - No road trip with the kids this summer will be complete without music or DVDs, but you may want to leave their earbuds at home.

More teens have hearing loss now than they did a decade ago and doctors say it could have something to do with how they're plugging in. What's part of playtime could have irreversible effects on your little one's hearing.

According to the American Osteopathic Association, one in five teens today has some form of hearing loss. That's about 30% higher than the 1980's and 1990's before earbuds were must-haves. Rich Barlow of Mechanicsville isn't surprised that some researchers are questioning their safety.

"These were headphones when I was a kid, this was headphones, these big things," he says pulling a pair of traditional headphones from the recording studio in his home. "My daughter will put them in and you can't seem them. They're just two wires hanging out of her ears, yet I can still hear them across the room."

Music has been Barlow's favorite escape for as long as he can remember, but a few decades worth of chords and mixes took its toll. At age 43, Barlow has 60% hearing loss in his left ear and has been wearing a heading aid for eight months. Now he's concerned the next generation is on the same path. "I can hear her headphones and blasting right against her ears, that can't be good," he speaks of his daughter.

"If a sound coming through an earbud is loud enough for someone sitting five feet away to hear it and understand it verbatim, then obviously it's too loud," cautions Dr. Mandy Sanders of Virginia Ear, Nose & Throat Associates. She explains that hearing loss happens when loud noise damages tiny hair cells deep within the ear.

Eighty-five decibels (dB) is where problems start. However, using earbuds when you max out the volume can produce 120 dB. To put it into perspective, a chainsaw is 110 dB.  A gunshot is 160.

If your children are going to wear earbuds, Dr. Sanders stresses that parents need to be conscious of size. She says there isn't so much of an age limit for use as there is a fit issue. "The fit is very important, and it can be very difficult to have a good fit in these tiny little ears sometimes."

Dr. Sanders says if they're loose, kids will turn up the volume until they can hear. Custom earbuds are available at ENT offices to ensure a safer fit.

Some studies have also found limiting exposure to high-decibel sounds, like those potentially produced by earbuds, can cut problems. Researchers recommend a maximum of one or two hours a day.

Patients like Barlow also recommend regular hearing tests for everyone, including children.  Contact your local audiologist to make a screening appointment or learn about any special programs offered in May, Better Hearing and Speech Month.



Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond
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