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Preventing noise-induced hearing loss

By Rachel Olis

Loud volumes on iPods, cell phones and other personal devices are contributing to an increase in the number of children, teens and adults that suffer from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) each year. Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States and affects over 36 million Americans.

“Hearing loss in children has become a serious problem,” said Heather Baty, audiologist at Children’s of Alabama. “It is critical to a child’s safety and to the development of many social skills, speech and learning.”

According to the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association, almost 12 percent of all children between the ages of 6-9 have noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

Part of the inner ear, called the cochlea, contains tiny hair cells that send sound messages to the brain. However, once the hair cells within the cochlea are damaged, they cannot grow back, making the damage permanent. A hearing test is often necessary to detect NIHL because many people are not aware of the loss. Children rarely complain about the symptoms of NIHL which include distorted and muffled sounds that make understanding speech more difficult.

Fortunately, noise-induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable. Here are some ways to prevent NIHL:

  • Turn it down– a very simple way to prevent NIHL is to turn down the volume on iPods, cell phones, the television and the radio. Keep the volume at no more than 60 percent, or at normal conversation volume. Also, being able to hear music outside of the headphones is a sure sign that the volume is too loud and hearing is being affected!
  • Limit listening time– another easy way to prevent NIHL is to limit the amount of time with ear buds in. A good rule is the 60percent/60-minute rule. Keep the volume at 60 percent for no more than 60 minutes.
  • Use hearing protection– ear muffs are often less damaging than ear buds, but both can be dangerous when not used in moderation. Fortunately, both are available with features that promote safe hearing. Also, wear earplugs at concerts and places where the noise will be damaging.
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