According to the findings of two studies, the rise in different types of musical playback devices can cause long-term hearing problems for children and youth.
Conducted by Deafness Research UK, an organization in the United Kingdom that focuses on studying the effects of sound, the first study indicates that youth -the greatest users of sound technology- run the risk of losing their hearing 30 years earlier than previous generations. The study shows that children that are already affected by hearing impairments have more difficulties developing their speaking and reading skills.
The second study, that evaluated the hearing of 170 Brazilian students between the ages of 11 and 17, more than half (54.7%) said to have experienced tinnitus in the last 12 months and 28% admitted to experiencing this symptom constantly. Tinnitus may be defined as a ringing in the ears that affects one or both ears and that can later be felt throughout the head. This condition is difficult to correct.
Both studies recommend that children and youth: use external headphones (that cover the ear and are not inserted into the ear), not listen to music at a level higher than 50% of the maximum volume of the device, use ear protectors if going to very noisy places, and that for every hour of exposure, take a ten-minute rest, as well as put a two-hour daily limit on listening to audio players. It is also suggested for parents to take their children under the age of 12 to get their hearing checked each year, and for children over the age of 12, to get checked every two years.
The consequences of hearing damage, in addition to tinnitus, are:
- Deafness: This initially occurs as an inability to hear high-pitched sounds such as signing birds, the tic-tock of a clock or a phone ringing.
- Early onset deafness: The progressive loss of the ability to hear medium and low-pitched sounds.
The part of the ear that is most affected by noise is the cochlea, which is located in the inner ear and is responsible for one’s ability to hear.