Advances in technology and the era of handheld electronic devices have brought about an increase in earphone/headphone usage, particularly among the younger generation.
Devices such as MP3 players play music through headphones inserted directly into the ear canal and allow the user to control the audio level to their heart’s delight while drowning out the outside world. Over time, higher volume levels can desensitize the user to dangerously high sound levels.
You may say that this is no different than the now outdated personal CD players or Walkman, but one key difference is that MP3 players, iPods, and smart phones can hold thousands of songs and play for hours without recharging which promotes continuous listening. Damage to hearing is caused by a combination of the volume level and duration of exposure.
So, what can you do to protect your children from irreversible hearing loss?
Talk with your kids about using lower volume when listening to music on headphones or ear buds. Make sure you put the headphones in your ear, and show them the appropriate sound level as well as the difference between this and the highest volume setting, which can lead to hearing loss. Be proactive and talk with your school or pediatrician about screening for both high- and low-frequency hearing loss – you may not even realize that damage has already been done. Screening and catching hearing loss early is key to prevention.