Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a gradual loss of hearing caused by excessive noise exposure. It can result from a single exposure to a very loud noise, or from listening to loud noises over an extended period. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of NIHL due to the unsafe use of audio devices such as MP3 players, exposure to damaging levels of noise in entertainment venues such as nightclubs and bars, and loud workplaces such as construction sites and factories.
Noise-induced hearing loss in teens usually happens slowly, so your teen may not be aware of a problem until it’s too late. Right after hearing loud noise, they may complain of a ringing in their ears. They may have difficulty hearing other people clearly and may ask people to repeat themselves. They may need to listen to music or watch the TV with the sound at a high volume and may feel tired or stressed from having to concentrate hard while listening. After several hours or days, their symptoms may resolve themselves. However, when they expose themselves to loud noise again, they may permanently damage their ears’ sensory cells, resulting in irreversible hearing loss.
NIHL is the only form of hearing loss that’s completely preventable. Talking to your teen about the dangers of excessive noise exposure and the importance of hearing protection is one way to ensure that they protect themselves against NIHL. Everyday life provides lots of opportunities for you to get the conversation started. For example, if you notice someone using a lawn mower while wearing earbuds, point out to your teen how loud the lawn mower is and how loud the music must be for them to able to hear it.
When talking about NIHL, your goal is to help your teen understand the consequences of health-risk behaviors and think up practical solutions that they can use to protect their own hearing. If your teen has trouble coming up with ideas, offer the following suggestions:
Together we can help your teen to realize that it’s wise to take steps to protect their hearing now, rather than potentially needing to wear hearing aids later in life.