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An Alarming Number of Teens at Risk of Hearing Loss

by April Maguire

We tend to think of hearing loss as a problem for old people. After all, how often has one of your grandparents asked you to repeat something that to your ears sounded crystal clear? Unfortunately, the assumption that only elderly people suffer from hearing problems is entirely false. In fact, hearing specialists around the world are reporting that a record number of teens currently suffer from hearing loss.

The Danger of Loud Noises

In young people, the primary cause for deafness is noise-induced hearing loss. This type of loss occurs when the delicate inner-workings of the ear became damaged due to exposure to loud noises. Traditionally, scientists attributed noise-induced hearing loss to the destruction of incredibly sensitive hair cells within the inner ear. These small hairs capture noises and transmit them to the brain, and once they die off, then your hearing capacity becomes diminished.

More recently, however, scientists have uncovered a second way that loud noises can damage your hearing. Excessive sound, it turns out, can also damage the synapses within cochlear nerve cells. These cells carry electrical impulses from the inner ear to the brain, but when the synapses are damaged, the auditory information doesn't transmit. Even in cases where none of the hair cells have died out, damage to these synapses can result in noticeable hearing loss.

A Pair of Studies

Recently, a pair of studies has come out that underscores the risk of noise-induced hearing loss in teens and young adults. In Brazil, a team of researchers placed teenage subjects in a soundproof booth and tested them for tinnitus, or ringing in their ears, which is an early indicator of hearing damage. Alarmingly, roughly 25% of the teens showed signs of tinnitus.

Meanwhile, a team in Boston also performed hearing tests on a group of teens. While none of the subjects in this test experienced tinnitus, they did demonstrate hearing loss in another way. For the trial, researchers talked with the teens in a quiet room and then again in a noisier environment. Surprisingly, the students who regularly exposed themselves to loud noises had a harder time hearing in the noisy room. Since their hearing receptors had been damaged, they had difficulty picking out a single voice among a din of noise.

While the trend of young people suffering from hearing loss is alarming, there is good news. Noise-induced hearing loss is virtually 100% preventable. By limiting your exposure to loud noises, such as music blaring from headphones, loud concerts and noisy venues, you can protect your ears and preserve your hearing well into old age.

If you or someone you know would like more information about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!

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