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Protecting Your Teen’s Hearing is Pivotal To Their Overall Health

Sep 12

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9/12/2011 2:09 PM  RssIcon

Turn that music down! Ever said that to your teenage child?

Chances are, you have…and often. Teens love to listen to their music at ear-popping decibels. But it’s at a cost. Approximately 12 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 19 already have a permanent hearing loss due to loud noise exposure.

It’s called Noice-Induced Hearing Loss, and often affects the high frequency sounds, like women and children’s voices, particularly in noisy situations. Children lose the ability to discern certain speech sounds like s, t, and f, and may miss pertinent information from their professor or teacher during a lecture.

What’s the answer? Prevention!

Everyone must protect their ears when listening to sounds higher than 85 decibels. To give some perspective, normal conversation is 60 decibels, a lawnmower is 90, a mp3 players at full volume is 100, and concerts of any sort (symphonies or rock bands) are at 110.

The National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends ear protection at anything reaching 95 decibels for the period of one hour. This means that your child participating in school band, hanging out in the arcade, using power tools in shop class, watching fireworks, mowing lawns for extra cash, or taking target practice with a gun needs to protect their hearing.

At The Holley Institute at St. John Hospital recommends a few types of ear protection. The least expensive are the foam earplugs that can be purchased at drug stores. There also are ear muffs placed over the ears that landscapers often use. Then, there are custom ear molds made at The Holley Institute (and starting around $130 per pair) that professional musicians wear. These custom molds allow pertinent sounds to be heard, but blocks those that can be damaging.

As an example, when I had a private practice in Los Angeles, I fit the Red Hot Chili Peppers for their custom ear molds, and this allowed them to perform at a high level and stay together as a band, while still protecting from damaging sounds that could permanently hurt their hearing.

Parents should absolutely have children turn their music to a moderate level. In fact, Apple Ipods allow you to set the maximum decibel level for the volume of the device.  Learn more at

How do you find out if your teenager has already damaged their hearing? The Holley Institute at St. John Hospital offers hearing test for newborns through adulthood. A child doesn’t need to be able to speak in order to complete a hearing test. It is wise to repeat a hearing screening annually. This test takes 30 minutes to an hour.

If your child is exhibiting signs of hearing loss, please consider making an appointment without delay. You might notice declining grades, the TV being turned louder and louder, requests for you to repeat information, or turning their ear toward a sound.

To learn more about scheduling a hearing test, call The Holley Institute at 313-343-4436. For those athletes at Grosse Pointe South, a free hearing test was included within the Sports Physicals provided by St. John Hospital. To learn more about volunteering for our free newborn hearing screening program, please call us at 313-343-4436. Each newborn is screened before leaving the hospital.

Jill Wells, Dr. of Audiology, is Lead Audiologist at St. John Hospital and Medical Center. She has a strong belief in proactive hearing tests, as her son’s rare cholesteatoma was found during a routine check of his ears. This condition was caught before it caused any symptoms or long term damage.

To learn about volunteering for the Holley Institute’s newborn hearing screening program, please call us at 313-343-4436. Each newborn is screened before leaving the hospital.

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