City Health Information
Volume 32 (2013) New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene No. 2; 7-10
 

IN THIS ISSUE

 

Preventing Noise-induced Hearing Loss Among Young People
  • Ask about occupational and recreational exposure to loud sounds.
  • Advise patients to
    • reduce the volume, limit listening time, and take regular breaks when using headphones,
    • use earplugs or earmuffs in environments where loud sounds cannot be avoided.
  • Screen young people and others exposed to loud sounds for possible hearing loss.
Image of boy with earbuds

In the United States (US), an estimated 5 million children and adolescents aged 6 to 19 years (1) and 26 million adults aged 20 to 69 years (2) have hearing loss associated with exposure to loud noise. Hearing loss is becoming more prevalent, particularly among young people up to 29 years of age (3). In 2005-2006, approximately 20% of people aged 12 to 19 years were affected by hearing loss, compared with 15% in 1988-1994, and adolescent males were significantly more likely to be affected than adolescent females (4). In 2011, 10% of New Yorkers aged 18 to 24 reported ringing in the ears or hearing loss (5).

Exposure to loud sounds even for short durations can result in temporary hearing loss, which may become permanent with repeated exposure (6). Chronic exposure to loud sound can damage the inner ear, resulting in noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and tinnitus. Chronic exposure to loud sound is also associated with cardiovascular disease and stress (7), and, in children, language and learning problems. Among children and adolescents, hearing loss has been associated with lower test scores and self-esteem, and increased stress and risk of injury (8-13).

Although NIHL is permanent, it can be prevented by limiting exposure to loud sound (14).

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