Can You Hear Me Now?

Teenagers need to understand exposure to loud noise either from concerts or personal listening devices can lead to hearing loss. With multiple exposures to noise over 85 decibels, the tiny hair cells may stop functioning and the hearing loss may be permanent.

Concerts can range from 82 to 110 dBA
and can average close to 100 dBA.

Experts say today’s small music players also pose a big risk of hearing loss. One reason: The “earbuds” used with iPods and other MP3 players fit into the ears, not over them. That makes the sound more intense than old models. Their digital songs are distortion-free, too. That invites kids to dial up the loudness with no loss of clarity. Most portable music players can reach 120 decibels, louder than a lawn mower or chain saw.

Such constant pounding by loud noise can cause permanent harm to the fragile hair cells of the inner ear. Because it doesn’t cause pain, the damage can sneak up on kids years later. Even moderately loud noise can permanently damage the hair cells if the noise continues over time. The hair cells help send sound information to the brain; if they are damaged or destroyed, hearing loss results. The hair cells don’t recover or produce new hair cells to replace damaged cells.

Preventive steps

To lessen the odds of hearing loss, experts offer this advice:

  • Don’t allow a child younger than 12 to regularly use a portable music player.
  • Encourage your child to tune the player no higher than 60 percent of the top volume, or a little over halfway on the dial. The volume should be low enough to hear surrounding sounds and conversation.
  • Have your child use earphones that sit on top of, not inside, the ear.
  • Limit the amount of time the player is used each day.
  • Wear ear plugs at concerts
  • Use a smartphone sound meter application that measures decibel levels -
    iPhone –
    Android –
  • See a doctor if ringing or buzzing in the ears lasts more than a day.

U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets maximum time limits on exposure to sound levels:

A more immediate risk involves so-called “iPod oblivion.” Users tune out their surroundings so much that they risk accidents or assaults.

Limiting the amount of time the portable music player is used each day also counteracts the increasingly sedentary lifestyle of childhood that is contributing to the obesity epidemic among youngsters.

As we age we loose high frequency sensitivity. Business has capitalized by using what’s called The Mosquito to deter teen loitering. It emits an annoying 17.4kHz tone that only young people can hear. Teens also use Mosquito ringtones, in classrooms for example, because adults cannot hear them. If you can hear this tone chances are you are under 25 years of age – Mosquito Tone

To make an appointment to see a HealthAlliance Hospital physician about your hearing call the physician referral line at (978) 665-5900. Like our Facebook page to receive Facebook updates about health and wellness.