Tuesday, August 4, 2009

LIsten Responsibly

The Hearing Alliance of America reported in 2005 that 15% of college graduates have a level of hearing loss equal to or greater than their parents. This is thought to be caused by listening to high volume music. Other audiological symptoms include distortion, tinnitus (ringing) and hyperacusis(loudness). What to do about this silent epidemic?

A recent article in Pediatrics, THE journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, reports the results of a panel of experts discussing the problem of MP3-induced hearing loss among teens. Experts included scientific researchers, medical doctors, community health professionals, educators, youth workers, music entertainment experts and enforcement authorities.

The general consensus was that teens, manufacturers and parents are the most relevant parties to be involved in prevention of hearing loss. To their credit, I think, the experts agreed that it is unlikely that teens and young adults are likely to police themselves in this regard. The general recommendation is that the industry will need to regulate itself in order to protect the hearing of the nation's youth. Volume-level regulation for MP3 players may be necessary through use of a noise limiter. . It was also recommended that authorities should initiate a public health campaign to raise awareness of the problem.

As a practicing pediatrician and a school district physician, I am surprised that a standard hearing test was not recommended at the middle and high school ages. Many pediatric offices and clinics are equipped with reliable equipment for testing hearing as are many school nurses' offices. A mandate to test and counsel on this important issue would go a long ways toward raising awareness.

Taking a cue from the beverage industry, we can imagine the slogan: "Don't Text and Drive" along with "Please Listen Responsibly."

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