Can you hear me now?

Have a child who uses ear buds or headphones?

Usage has grown in the past decade among kids since the iPod was introduced in the fall of 2001. Teens, tweens –even younger children are listening to music with devices that place sound waves in direct proximity to the ear drum.

The American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) says that ownership of iPods and MP3 players among children has increased from 18% to 76% in just the past 5 years. Kids ages 8–18 devote an average of more than 7 hours to using entertainment media.

That adds up to more than 53 hours a week.

High school students are more likely than adults to say they have experienced three of the four symptoms of hearing loss, according to an ASHA survey, including 1) turning up the volume on their television or radio, 2) saying “what” or “huh” during normal conversation, and 3) tinnitus or ringing in the ears.

According to the ASHA, even minimal hearing loss can affect social interaction, communication skills, behavior, emotional development, and academic performance.

ASHA has re-designed the site Listen to your Buds to raise awareness of the risks.

They urge parents to protect hearing and reduce the chances of noise-induced hearing loss from personal listening devices by following these three basic principles:

•Keep the volume down. A good guide is half volume. If someone else can hear the music, it’s too loud.

•Limit listening time. Give your hearing “quiet breaks.” Damage can occur after just four songs.

•Watch for warning signs of hearing loss.

Parents should teach children about volume beginning with their very first pair of headphones, says Cigna Health Care audiologist Candice Grotsky, Au.D. She recommends positioning the volume at a low setting to start, then slowly increasing the volume until it can be heard comfortably, clearly and without distortion.

For more on Grotsky’s tips on which headphones are safer than others, and how to “train” kids to listen safely, check out “Turn down that noise!” from our RAK archives.

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