Those tiny earbuds that come with every iPod are very effective: they can be placed snuggly in the ear canal so that music coming from the MP3 player is loud and clear. Compared to the old headphones that fit over the entire ear, ear buds transmit sound much more effectively because of their placement directly in the ear and proximity to the ear drum. However, if your teenager enjoys listening to their iPod at high volumes, they could suffer from hearing loss at a much younger age than they would have otherwise.
However, iPod earbuds aren’t the only factor to blame for early-age hearing loss. In addition, chronic ear infections as an infant can contribute to hearing loss. Take, for example, Brooklyn Miller, a 13-year-old who has to wear hearing aids because of her mild to moderate hearing loss. Her mother attributes her daughter’s hearing loss to the chronic ear infections that she suffered as an infant. However, the authors of a recent study say that Brooklyn is one of many young people across the country who faces hearing loss.
Researchers from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association used data from a national health and nutrition survey done between 1988 and 1994. By comparing the number of children ages 12 to 19 with hearing loss in those years to the number of children with a hearing loss in 2005 and 2006 they found that in 2005 and 2006, 1 in 5 children had hearing problems. Overall, the results showed a 30% increase in hearing loss amongst young people in 2005 and 2006 when compared to the first survey.
While the researchers did not specify the exact causes of hearing loss in their data, the most common type of hearing loss was high-frequency hearing loss, which is highly attributable to noise exposure. Thus, while Brooklyn Miller didn’t suffer her hearing loss from noise exposure, her mother is afraid for her other 3 other children’s hearing because of their iPod use.