Although Walter Whitney is in the business of selling hearing aids, he said the increasing number of young people with hearing loss is disheartening.
What’s worse, he said, is that many teens are damaging their own ears and don’t even know they’re doing it.
“The single biggest problem with noise-induced hearing loss is the fact that there are no immediate consequences,” Whitney said.
In 1981, Whitney founded Vista Hearing Instruments & Audiology, which has locations in Mentor, Huntsburg Township, Ashtabula and other northern Ohio cities.
Whitney said in that time, he has seen more and more teenagers with hearing problems.
He’s not the only one who has noticed the trend.
A study published in the Aug. 18 edition Journal of the American Medical Association found that 19.5 percent of teens had some hearing loss in 2005 and 2006.
The number shows an increase from the 14.9 percent of teens with some hearing loss from 1988 to 1995.
While the study was not designed to pinpoint a cause of the increase, Whitney said he thinks the answer is right in front of parents’ faces — and in their children’s ears.
“Earbuds absolutely contribute to the problem,” he said. “Earbuds concentrate the noise and compound the problem.”
Whitney said earbuds, which are placed directly in the ears, cause more damage than their precursor, headphones, which rest on the outside of the ears.
“When your ear is closer to the source of the noise, there is a multiplying factor,” he said.
For teens like Deidre Hammon, an 18-year old from Eastlake, hearing damage is simply not a major concern.
“I usually listen with (my earbuds) turned all the way up,” she said. “It just sounds better.”
While hearing loss can be caused from prolonged exposure to any loud noises, Whitney said loud music from concerts and earbuds are a significant cause when hearing loss happens to a teenager.
“You can never be 100 percent sure of where noise-induced hearing loss comes from, but when 98 percent of them report listening to loud music, you can draw some conclusions,” he said.
One concert can cause a person to lose up to 2 percent of their hearing if that person spends time close to the speakers.
Whitney said once hearing is gone, there is no way to get it back.
“A hearing aid is a prosthetic device, and no prosthetic can completely duplicate the body’s original abilities,” he said.
The best way to correct the situation is obvious to Whitney: Parents and teens need to be better informed about the damage loud music can do to one’s hearing.
“The problem is a lack of awareness,” Whitney said.
Copyright (c) 2010, The News-Herald, Willoughby, Ohio
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.