Reviewed By: Kristina Rigsby, Au.D., a pediatric audiologist at the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center (Last Updated: March 28, 2012)
According to a Vanderbilt-led study published in Journal of the American Medical Association, hearing loss is now affecting 20 percent of U.S. adolescents ages 12 to 19, which is a 5 percent increase over the past 15 years.
A separate study by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association found that teenagers typically listen to devices at a louder volume than adults, and that these same teenagers already have symptoms of hearing loss.
Kristina Rigsby, Au.D., a pediatric audiologist at the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center, says listening to devices with levels over 80 dB for extended periods of time may be potentially dangerous.
Prolonged exposure to high volume exhausts the auditory system, she explains. Over time, the hair cells in the ear start to degenerate because they aren't receiving proper blood flow and oxygen.
"When you are listening to these devices at high levels and for long periods of time, you are putting yourself at risk for hearing loss," Rigsby said. "Hearing loss is permanent, so once you've done the damage, there's no getting it back."
If parents can hear sound coming from their child's headphones while they are wearing them, it's too loud, Rigsby said. A good rule of thumb is the "60/60 rule," which means using only 60 percent of the device's volume level for no more than 60 minutes at a time. After 60 minutes, give your ears a break for at least an hour, she said.
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