Silent Risk: Most Parents and Teens Unconcerned about Noise-induced Hearing Loss

Although teen hearing loss is common, a new poll shows that most parents haven't discussed it with their teens.

National data demonstrate that 1 in 6 U.S. adolescents has high-frequency hearing loss. A new report from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health shows that many parents don't think their teens are at risk.

Deepa L. Sekhar, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Penn State College of Medicine worked with the National Poll on Children's Health on this study.

"Noise-induced hearing loss is not reversible, but it is preventable," Sekhar says. "There are simple steps that parents and teenagers can take toward hearing conservation."

One of these simple steps is encouraging the use of volume-limiting headphones or earbuds – devices that look like regular headphones or earbuds but constrain sound to 85 decibels or less, a reduction of up to 40 percent in maximum volume output.

Only 32 percent of parents know about volume-limiting devices. When informed, over half of parents of teens report they'd be willing to purchase volume-limiting headphones or earbuds, but only about a third think their teen would be likely to use them.

"These findings suggest that we have work to do in educating teens and parents about hearing conservation," Sekhar says. "We encourage more parents to talk to their teens about hearing loss. In addition, doctors and other health professionals can play a role by introducing this topic routinely to parents and teens during preventive care visits."

For more information on deafness and other communication disorders, visit the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website.