Signs of Hearing Loss in Teenagers

Hearing Loss in Teenagers

If you find yourself screeching at your teen, and getting no response, there may be an innocent explanation; your teen may be experiencing hearing loss.

There are studies that indicate about 15 percent of American teens are showing early signs of hearing loss. It appears that the modern lifestyle is prematurely aging the ears of teens who should have almost perfect hearing. Items regularly used, and the things that we do, are loud enough to put hearing at risk. These include hair dryers, MP3 players, movie theaters, rock concerts, a trip on the NYC subway, and even sending your teen out to cut the grass. On the bright side, once you understand decibels, you can take steps to help prevent hearing loss in your teen.

Decibels are how noise is measured. The quietest sound a person can hear is 0 (zero), 60 is considered normal for a conversation and the sound of a gunshot at close range (140) can cause immediate permanent damage. It seems that 70 decibels can be safely tolerated, indefintely, without harm. However, much of how we live and what we do is above 70 decibels.

Hearing loss happens when there is enough loud noise to permanently or temporarily damage the microscopic hair cells in the inner ear; these hair cells convey sound to the brain. While those cells can bounce back after a loud concert, a habitually loud and noisy life may cause the cells to stop working forever!

It may take several years for this to happen which is why teenagers may think they are not affected by the constant onslaught of blasting noise.

Here are some examples of noise that may affect a teen (all over 60 decibels):

The hair dryer - (77 to 92 decibels) - many teens use a hair dryer daily.

The rock concert - (89 to 120 decibels) - it's been years since I have been to an indoor rock concert. I was thrilled to get nearly front row seats - but when I left I could not hear for the rest of the evening. Our teens, of course, love a good indoor loud concert.

The lawn mower - (86 to 99 decibels) - if you've tried to sleep late on the weekend, only to hear your neighbor cutting grass at 7am, you know how loud these monster machines can be. If you send your teen out to cut the grass, be aware if the teen takes an MP3 player. Chances are the MP3 player will be turned to maximum volume to compensate for the noise of the mower, or other lawn equipment. A double whammy!

The movie theater - (72 to 104 decibels) - I suspect a love story may be a bit quieter, but if you sit through one of those car chase, bomb everything, shoot 'em ups, I am sure they reach the top of this decibel range. Teens tend to like action flicks.

The NYC subway - (83 to 112 decibels) - I am a native NYer and I can attest to the noise underground. Do this five days a week and I am sure this is one of the leading causes of stress in NYers. Many teenagers here in the city travel to school by subway.

Sporting Events - (89 to 115 decibels) - I remember going to Shea Stadium to a baseball game and I did it just one time because the screaming and yelling was overwhelming (not to mention the beer swilling, toilet paper throwing, etc.) Teenagers love sporting events and many are held indoors.

Add to this, the fun-filled nights at a dance club or house party, where music has to be as loud as possible.

One consumer magazine expressed concern about the use of MP3 players. Teens often play them at maximum volume and if played for extended periods of time can do damage. There is a tendency, if in a noisy environment, to compensate by turning up the volume. If you have been in a noisy, high decibel subway car, you may have heard music coming from an MP3 player plugged into someone's ear. The listener, no doubt, has turned it up so loud to hear it over the subway noise. Teenagers on subways or even the city streets are likely to turn up an MP3 player.

Here are ways to protect hearing:

- if you are in a restaurant, or anywhere, and you have to raise your voice to be heard, then your hearing is being affected. Change venues.

- see if your teen has a volume limiter on the MP3 player, and make sure it is used. If not, then it is suggested that listening time should be limited to 90 minutes per day.

- turn it down. Turn down everything! This includes the tv, the stereo, the radio.

- use foam ear plugs. If inserted properly can reduce noise exposure by about 20 decibels.

- use noise canceling over-the-ear headphones. These help cancel out the background noise which can lead to a higher listening volume. But teens (and adults) should never use these where you need to stay alert - like driving a car.

- be aware that hearing loss is cumulative. Make sure your teen has quiet time as often as possible.

- use a push mower. But no one listens to this advice. I've cut grass many a day in my life and the use of a push mower kept my arms strong, kept my weight down, did not pollute the environment, and made no noise. A perfect machine. I've also, in the early days, used an electric, or a gas powered mower and the noise left me shaking. In the future when I retire to a house with a garden I will plant all sorts of ground cover so as to eliminate the use of any machine. A garden should be a quiet place.

For information about deafness and other communication disorders in our children, the government has a clearinghouse on hearing disorders at a user friendly website: nidcd.nih.gov

Have a quiet, restful day!

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Comments 6 comments

jo 7 years ago

Only 15% of teens are loosing there hearing at an early age, maybe, but I think most teenagers just like to turn off adults when we are voicing our opinion of something they want to do or have and we think NOT(now or ever).

Most teens hear what they want to hear and ignore the rest.

My 6yrs old grandson when he asked me if I heard his request to ride his bike before breakfast and I said no, 'he said you didn't hear me because you are getting old'.I can't wait until he become a teenager. My hearing is fine, I just have mastered one of my kids traits of hearing and ignoring them at the same time.

Teens do like loud noices, not sure why, but my personal opinion is because they like to drown out adults, I should invest in a pair of ear plugs, ok, seriously, did an adult conduct this test on the 15% ?


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

Hey Jo,

As I share this article with people I am finding out that a lot of people in their 30's are telling me they have hearing problems, some quite seriously. My darling DIL said she grew up with the walkman - and so plugging that thing in your ear and then turning up the volume...well there are lots of folks out there w/hearing loss who are now suffering the consequences of teen damage. It is cumulative and then one day...gone!

I'm with you with tuning out - Of course we adults are good at tuning out kids. I know I did while they talked on and on and on - they just got my attention if they said certain trigger words like 'fire' or 'beaten up' or 'car race.'

Thanks for sharing your fun-filled homelife!


beccas90 profile image

beccas90 7 years ago from New York

I think Nascar takes some beating as well. I took one of my sons once - I think I can still hear it in my head. Ear plugs or headphones definitely needed.

Thanks for suggestions.


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

Good point beccas90!

We probably need to travel with earplugs when we go to certain events. The noise is proven to be damaging.

Thanks for commenting!


Ruben Beach 5 years ago

Excellent missive. Loss of Hearing is an isolating experience as so many of our aging parents and grandparents experience some level of hearing loss everyday. Thanks for providing this great information.


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

You're welcome Ruben Beach - thanks for commenting!

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