It’s common for
school-aged children to pop on a pair of headphones to listen to their
favorite music. Could prolonged use of headphones eventually cause
hearing damage? To learn the answer, the authors of a study in the
January print issue of Pediatrics examined the results of
hearing tests of 4,310 adolescents ages 12 to 19 taken as part of
National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.
“Prevalence of Noise-Induced Hearing-Threshold Shifts and Hearing Loss Among U.S. Youths,” published online Dec. 27, found that exposure to
loud noise or music through headphones increased from 19.8 percent in
1988-1994 to 34.8 percent in 2005-2006. Overall rates of hearing loss
did not change significantly between the two time periods, except for
one type of hearing loss among adolescent females. In 1988-1994, 11.6
percent of teen girls had noise-induced threshold shift, a type of
hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise. In 2005-2006, the rate
had increased to 16.7 percent.
The findings suggest that increased
exposure to recreational noise and minimal use of hearing-protection
devices might have increased female teenagers’ prevalence of
noise-induced threshold shift to a level previously seen only for
boys. However, the study results don’t indicate this hearing loss is
due to use of headphones. Rather, the study authors conclude the
increased rate of hearing loss in females may be due to other factors
not reflected in the questionnaire, such as amplified music at
concerts and clubs. The authors conclude more should be done to educate
teenagers about the dangers of excessive noise. Chronic exposure to
loud noise may not cause hearing loss in the short term, but it can
gradually result in irreversible hearing loss later in life.
The American Academy of
Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians,
pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists
dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children,
adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.