A World Heath Organization study estimates more than one-billion teenagers and young adults will suffer hearing loss because they’re using ear buds to listen to loud music for long periods of time. Dr. Michi Diller, an audiologist in Omaha-Council Bluffs, says hearing loss is a serious issue that shouldn’t be ignored.
“Sixteen percent of 12-to-19-year-olds have documented threshholds that are elevated due to the exposure to these loud sounds,” Dr. Diller says. “We’re definitely seeing more teens with hearing loss but we also are trying to focus on educating our patients about the importance of noise protection and preventing noise-induced hearing loss.” That ringing in the ears after a loud concert, being around gunfire, chainsaws or loud farm equipment may go away but there could be permanent damage that will show up later in life. It’s a wake-up call for some teens to learn that once their hearing is gone, it’s gone for good and there is no miracle cure to restore it.
“We’re not anywhere close to regrowing hair cells, which is what the structures are in your inner ear that are damaged due to noise exposure,” Diller says. “We’re not at the point at which people can say, ‘Yeah, I can listen to louder music because I’ll be able to take a pill later on and regrow those hair cells.’ We certainly want to just work on prevention.”
The only quick fix, she says, is a hearing aid. There are safe levels that don’t harm delicate ears. You can listen safely at 85 decibels for about 8 hours with no damage. “Eighty-five decibels is equivalent to the volume of busy city traffic,” Diller says. “If you go up to 100 decibels, which is similar to the sound of a tractor, you can safely be around that sound for about 15 minutes.” Diller, who got her BA and her Doctor of Audiology degrees at the University of Iowa, is an audiologist at Boys Town National Research Hospital in Omaha.
By Karla James