Teenagers exposed to loud noises 'could lose hearing by 30'
Teenagers could lose their hearing by the time they're 30 by listening to loud music too much, a new study has revealed.
Tinnitus, the medical term for hearing sounds coming out from your body rather than from your surroundings, is becoming more and more common in younger people, and the University of Sao Paulo's Medical School (FM-USP) in Brazil has linked it to high volume on headphones, along with regularly visiting discos, nightclubs and concerts. It's caused by temporary or permanent damage to cochlear hair cells in the inner ear, which stretch and contract in response to sound. Loud noises cause them to overload, forcing other regions of the ear to work hard to compensate for the loss of function in that section.
Researchers used an otoscope - the instrument to visually examine the eardrum - on 170 students aged between 11 and 17. The participants were also asked to complete a questionnaire on whether they had suffered from tinnitus in the last 12 months and it they had, what the volume, duration and frequency was. Over half of the youngsters - 54.7 per cent - said they had. Those who did then underwent a psychoacoustic examination to measure their hearing, which took place in an acoustic chamber and used an audiometer. A total of 28.8 per cent of this group reported suffering tinnitus while in the booth, and the properties corresponded with an adult diagnosis of chronic tinnitus.
"This level of prevalence is alarming," Tanit Ganz Sanchez, associate professor of otolaryngology at the university and principal investigator for the study, said. "There was a notion that tinnitus was a problem of older people, but we're seeing it becoming more prevalent in younger groups, including children and teenagers, because of their increasing exposure to high levels of noise, among other factors.
"We found that adolescents perceive tinnitus very often but unlike adults don't worry about it and don't complain to parents or teachers, for example. As a result, they aren't seen by a doctor or hearing specialist, and the problem can become chronic.
"If the ears of teenagers with tinnitus are more sensitive to high levels of sound than those without, it's natural to expect them to suffer from hearing loss sooner. The tinnitus is an early sign of this impairment that appears well before any actual hearing loss."
Findings were published in Scientific Reports, an online journal published by Springer Nature.