Christmas is just around the corner and if you’re the parent of a teenager, it’s practically a given that his or her gift wish list includes a mobile phone, music player or other listening device. Before you head to the electronics aisle, St. Augustine Ear, Nose and Throat founder Dr. Kalpana DePasquale offers advice that could make a major difference in your teen’s auditory health.
“When it comes to listening, having a teenager can be similar to having a two year old,” Dr. DePasquale said, echoing the frustrations of many a parent. “However, it’s often unclear if they are just not listening or if they can’t hear you.”
In her practice, Dr. DePasquale sees a growing number of teenage, pre-teen and youth patients suffering some degree of hearing loss. She places much of the blame squarely on the increasing use of high-volume listening devices.
“Many communications devices that function as phones, music players, cameras, are now increasingly affordable and accessible to more children and teens,” she said. “Youth clothing is even designed to be fitted with electronic devices and headphones.”
While these devices certainly have a cool factor that makes them popular with young people, they also pose the risk of potentially irreversible damage. Statistics show that one in five American teens will experience hearing loss – a rate that’s 30 percent higher than in the 1980s and 1990s.
“Parents need to inform their teens about noise exposure and how it’s linked to hearing loss,” Dr. DePasquale said. “Young people must understand that noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented. However, once the young person is diagnosed with hearing loss, it is irreversible. Hearing can be
amplified with a hearing aid, but there is no cure.”
If you plan to place a smartphone, music player or other listening device under the tree this Christmas, make sure your teen understands and adheres to the 60/60 rule: “There is a helpful 60/60 rule that states the maximum duration of volume that is greater than 60 percent of the maximum volume should be 60 minutes,” said Dr. DePasquale explains. “Volumes higher than 85 decibels can cause hearing damage and high-pitched sounds can cause damage more easily than lower pitched sounds.”
Some devices like the ever-popular iPod have a setting for volume limits that can be adjusted to 60 percent. Check for this feature before making a purchase. Rather than earbuds that sit precariously at the entrance of the ear canal, go retro and choose the older-style headphones that are placed over the ears instead. And, make sure that teens don’t wear earbuds or headphones while sleeping.
Red-flag indications that your child or teen already has suffered hearing loss include complaints of muffled sounds or of ringing, roaring, hissing or buzzing sounds in the ear; listening to the TV or radio at higher volumes; and difficulty understanding speech. If your child experiences any of these, it’s critical that he or she sees an Otolaryngologist or ear, nose and throat physician for a hearing evaluation. Call 904-461-6060 to schedule an appointment with St. Augustine Ear, Nose and Throat.