Noise-induced hearing loss: A “silent” public health concern among today’s youth
We have all heard it. Children blasting music through their headphones or speakers so loud that you can hear it from the next room, which begs the question—Could they be permanently damaging their hearing? The frightening answer is yes.
Who is affected by noise-induced hearing loss?
Exposure to harmful noise can happen at any age. People of all ages, including children, teens, young adults, and older people, can develop noise-induced hearing loss. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that approximately 15 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69—or 26 million Americans—have hearing loss that may have been caused by exposure to noise at work or in leisure activities.5 An estimated 12.5 percent of children and adolescents age 6 to 19 years (approximately 5.2 million) have suffered permanent damage to their hearing from excessive exposure to noise, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.2 A study released in 2015 from the World Health Organization estimates that some 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones.7
Adopting healthy hearing behaviors: “Consider your ears”
The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss is the only form of hearing loss that, although permanent, is 100 percent preventable through the adoption of healthy hearing habits.5 Hearing health experts are urging people to “consider their ears” in their everyday lives and to spread the word on hearing protection to educators and parents.4
NIDCD recommends the following steps to prevent noise-induced hearing loss:
- Lower the volume.
- Move away from the source of noise.
- Wear hearing protection such as earmuffs or earplugs.
Why hearing health education is needed in schools
In response to increasing rates of noise-induced hearing loss among youth and preteens, health experts have recommended implementation of hearing health programs in schools to reinforce the messaging of healthy hearing habits.3 Hearing plays an essential role in communication, speech and language development, and learning. Even a small amount of hearing loss can have profound, negative effects on speech, language comprehension, communication, classroom learning, and social development.1 Studies indicate that without proper intervention, children with mild to moderate hearing loss, on average, do not perform as well in school as children with no hearing loss. This gap in academic achievement widens as students progress through school.1,3
NIDCD’s campaign, It’s a Noisy Planet. Protect Their Hearing®, takes hearing health education into the community.
In 2008, NIDCD launched It’s a Noisy Planet. Protect Their Hearing®, a national education campaign to raise awareness of the importance of preventing noise-induced hearing loss. The campaign targets preteens (children age 8 to 12), parents, and professionals who interact with preteens (such as educators and coaches) to encourage children to adopt healthy hearing habits for life.
In an effort to provide hands-on education to the community, Noisy Planet campaign materials and key messages are shared via in-person, interactive presentations to students grades 3 through 6, across the Washington metropolitan area. IQ Solutions staff has assisted with more than 90 presentations to more than 25 schools and summer camps. Presentations include general and easy-to-digest information on the process of how we hear, how sound can damage our hearing, and how to prevent this damage and protect our hearing for years to come. The presentations are well received by students and instructors as they provide opportunities for hands-on activities with students and distribute materials for students to share with their parents. We often receive great feedback from the kids in the classrooms, who tell us that they were given foam ear plugs at the latest monster truck show and say they’ll wear hearing protection at the next concert they go to.
IQ Solutions looks forward to continuing our work with NIDCD on its campaign—It’s a Noisy Planet. Protect Their Hearing®—developing materials and innovations to help spread the word that healthy hearing habits can last a lifetime.
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Effects of Hearing Loss on Development. Rockville, MD: ASHA.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Noise Induced Hearing Loss. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; November 2015
- Folmer RL, Griest SE, Martin WH. Hearing conservation education programs for children: a review. Journal of School Health. 2002; 72(2):51-57.
- Folmer RL. The importance of hearing conservation instruction. Journal of School Nursing. 2003; 19(3):140‑148.
- National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Noise-Induced Hearing Loss. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; April 2007; NIH Pub No. 97-4233.
- World Health Organization (WHO). 1.1 Billion People at Risk for Hearing Loss [press release]. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO Media Centre; February 27, 2015.