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According to research conducted at Penn State College of Medicine in December 2013, one in six teenagers suffers from a degree of preventable hearing loss due to constantly being ‘plugged’ to their music devices, such as MP3 players and iPods.

Similarly, the I Hear Report (compiled by the National Acoustic Laboratory) concludes that 64% of the 1,400 people who were tested, suffered from a constant ringing sound in their ears caused by a condition called tinnitus, which is believed to be the precursor to hearing loss and is on the rise in people between the ages of 11 and 35. Caused by listening to loud music, tinnitus can also lead to depression, poor concentration and sleeping difficulties.

Hearing damage is not caused by just listening to music at a high volume; duration plays an important role. Australian Audiologist Nick Parkyn suggests that hearing damage can occur if a person listens to music through headphones at 105 decibels (or higher) for more than seven minutes at a time.

Surprisingly, according to an article published in Pediatrics, only eight percent of the people who participated in a survey posted on the MTV website a few years ago, considered hearing loss to be ‘a very big problem’. Perhaps this is because high-volume hearing loss does not occur overnight; it limits the ability to hear high-frequency sounds in speech (letters s, h and f) very gradually before advancing.

Parents need to understand and address this growing problem; they should teach children the importance of safe listening habits. Also remember that while a hearing test administered by a doctor can reveal mild hearing loss, the problem is usually diagnosed when it has reached an advanced stage.

– Dr Samia Babar                                                                                                    The writer is Director, Health Awareness Society.

First published in the ADBUZZZZ Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on January 12, 2014.

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