Remember last century, when your parents told you all the loud music would damage your hearing? Remember last week, when you told your own children or grandchildren the same thing?
They were right. And so are you.
A recent clinical study found that a large proportion of teenagers have already damaged their hearing and have experienced tinnitus and increased sensitivity to sound. A condition previously thought to afflict people mostly over 50 is now found in a far greater number of adolescents than previously known. This portends a dramatic increase in the condition as these youngsters mature.
According to McMaster University’s Dr. Larry Roberts, a co-author of the study, “It’s a growing problem and I think it’s going to get worse. My personal view is that there is a major public health challenge coming down the road in terms of difficulties with hearing.”
The study examined 170 students between 11 and 17 years old, from a school in Sao Paulo, Brazil.(1) The students completed a questionnaire about their prior experience with tinnitus, potentially risky listening habits, and sensitivity to ordinary sounds. Then acoustic measurements were taken in a sound booth.
Among the students, 54.7% reported that they had previously experienced tinnitus, and 28.8% heard continuous tinnitus while in the booth. Nearly all the teenagers in the study, with and without tinnitus, admitted to engaging in risky listening behavior at parties and clubs and on personal listening devices.
It is common to experience ringing in the ears for a day or two after listening to loud music. This brief tinnitus is an early warning sign of vulnerability to the effects of high noise exposure. More than half the students said this had happened to them. Almost 30% had developed persistent tinnitus, and the acoustic properties of their tinnitus corresponded with those of chronic adult tinnitus sufferers.
The study also found that standard audiograms could not detect persistent tinnitus. People with persistent tinnitus could hear as well as their peers, because serious hearing loss had not yet set in. However, those with tinnitus had a significantly reduced tolerance for loud noise. The sound level tolerance of these young people averaged 11.3 dB lower than those without tinnitus.
This lower sound tolerance is considered a sign of hidden damage to the nerves that process sound. It can foretell serious hearing impairment later in life.
Silvie Hébert, President of Acouphènes Québec, the Quebec tinnitus association, blames the current wave of hearing problems in young adults on personal audio devices. “Right now more and more studies are published in the literature stating that the use of portable listening devices is too high. Young people don’t realize it right away. At some point they will have a high probability of having hearing loss and tinnitus.” (2)
According to the World Health Organization, 1.1 billion teenagers are at risk of hearing damage or hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices and exposure to loud sounds and music in nightclubs, bars and other entertainment venues.
If teenagers in your family use iPods or other music devices, please make them aware of the problem and limit both their listening time and the volume of the music. This is the best way they can preserve their hearing in the long run and avoid the constant ringing of tinnitus. Teenagers should also have a ready supply of earplugs to use when in a noisy environment. Mack’s soft foam earplugs can be found very inexpensively on Amazon.com or retail outlets.
For those who already have hearing loss and tinnitus, Arches Tinnitus Formula with Ginkgo Max 26/7® has been clinically proven to reduce tinnitus loudness for the majority of people who use it. (3) It also has a protective effect and can help reduce damage that has occurred recently. It is necessary to use the product for three months before the full effect can be felt, so we recommend Arches Tinnitus Starter Kit, a three-month supply.
1 – Sanchez, TG et al. Tinnitus is associated with reduced sound level tolerance in adolescents with normal audiograms and otoacoustic emissions. Sci. Rep. 6, 27109; doi:10.1038/srep27109 (2016).
2 – http://cantechletter.com/2016/06/half-teenagers-experiencing-tinnitus-hearing-damage-says-mew-study/
3 - Alexander von Boetticher, Ginkgo biloba extract in the treatment of tinnitus: a systematic review. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2011; 7: 441-447.