MTV Generation Not
Attuned to Hearing Loss
While the high-decibel entertainment
young Americans enjoy at rock concerts and clubs may be wrecking
their hearing, most music fans say preventing hearing loss remains
a low priority, a new MTV-based survey finds.
But there's good news: Once made aware of the potential for
permanent hearing loss, many kids interviewed said they'd consider
using earplugs when noise levels rise to dangerous highs.
Earplugs "don't disturb the enjoyment of the music, and they
protect your hearing so you can continue over the years to enjoy
music," said lead researcher Dr. Roland Eavey, a professor of
otology and laryngology at Harvard Medical School.
His team reported their findings in the April issue of Pediatrics .
The idea for the study started when Eavey noted that music fans
leaving concerts and clubs often had ringing in their ears and
heard muffled sounds. "I'll bet these kids don't realize that
they are going to do potentially permanent damage to their hearing," he
Investigating further, his team devised a 28-question online
survey that they posted with the cooperation of MTV on the channel's
Web site. In only three days, they received nearly 10,000 completed
Among the responders, just 8 percent rated hearing loss as a
significant health problem, falling far behind sexually transmitted
diseases (50 percent), alcohol and drug use (47 percent), depression
(44 percent) smoking (45 percent), nutrition and weight issues
(31 percent), and acne (18 percent). "Hearing issues are practically
off the radar screen," Eavey said.
However, 61 percent said they had hearing loss or ringing in
their ears after rock concerts, and 43 percent said they had
similar problems after being in clubs.
When the researchers asked how many had worn earplugs, only
14 percent said yes. "Hardly anybody knew about earplugs," Eavey
said. But more than 60 percent said that if they knew loud noise,
such as rock music, could cause permanent hearing loss, they
would try earplugs.
If the advice to wear earplugs came from a doctor, then it was
more likely to be effective, Eavey said. "If your parent told
you to wear earplugs, they weren't terribly interested."
Eavey wants to make wearing earplugs 'cool.' "We want to turn
it into a positive, like sun block and sunglasses."
Most earplugs sold in drug stores are fine, the hearing expert
said. "You can look on the box to see how many decibels of protection
you get. And get the ones that offer the most protection," he
Of course, cranked-up iPods or Walkmans are hurting America's
hearing, too, Eavey added. As a rule of thumb, he said, "if somebody
else can hear the music, then it's too loud."
Once noise-induced hearing loss occurs, there is no going back,
warned Dr. David L. Katz, an associate clinical professor of
public health and director of the Prevention Research Center
at Yale University School of Medicine.
"So there is some danger intrinsic to rock 'n roll,
as well as sex and drugs. Without intruding into the rights of
young people to be young people, we still somehow have to convey
this message, and make it matter," he said.
"We must seek ways to get young people to apply enough good
judgment to protect those older versions of themselves from lapses
in judgment that lead to irreparable harm," Katz said. "We have
to find ways to make kids understand they can rock on -- and
keep their hearing, too."
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
can tell you more about noise-related
hearing loss .
SOURCES: Roland Eavey, M.D., professor, otology and laryngology,
Harvard Medical School, Boston; David L. Katz, M.D., M.P.H.,
associate clinical professor, public health, and director, Prevention
Research Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven,
Conn.; April 2005 Pediatrics
Reference Source 62
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