Hearing Loss on the Rise in Teens

Friday, August 20, 2010

Your teenager might not be practicing selective hearing loss when you tell him to take out the trash—it could be the real thing. According to a new study in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association, significantly more adolescents have hearing loss now compared to 15 years ago. When Josef Shargorodsky, M.D., M.P.H., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and his colleagues combed through the data from two national health surveys, they found that hearing loss had increased by nearly 30 percent in people aged 12-19 over approximately the last ten years. While about 1 in 7 teens had hearing loss between 1988 and 1994 (the dates of the first study), the number jumped to between 1 in 5 between 2005-2006 (the dates f the later survey).

The natural assumption is to point fingers at personal listening devices, like iPods, but the researchers say that that may not be the case. In fact, other data suggests that teens from the late 80s and 90s reported similar amounts of noise exposure as those from 2005-2006.

The results of the study did not find a clear cause for the rise in hearing loss, says study co-author Gary C. Curhan, M.D., Sc.D. “This is the type of study that generates important questions,” he continues. “It underscores the need for further investigation that will help us better understand this increase in hearing loss and hopefully encourage efforts towards hearing preservation.”

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