Today, one in 5 teens has some form of hearing loss - a rate about 30 percent higher than in the 1980s and 1990s - which many experts atttribute, in part, to the increased use of headphones.
James E. Foy, DO, an osteopathic pediatrician from Vallejo, Calif, explains what you can do to minimize your child’s risk of hearing loss.
"Listening through headphones at a high volume for extended periods of time can result in lifelong hearing loss for children and teens," says Dr. Foy. "Even a mild hearing loss due to excessive noise could lead to developmental delays in speech and language.
"Most MP3 players today can produce sounds up to 120 decibels, equivalent to a sound level at a rock concert. At that level, hearing loss can occur after only about an hour and 15 minutes," said Dr. Foy.
"I stress to my patients and the parents of my patients that if you can’t hear anything going on around you when listening to headphones, the decibel level is too high," he said.
Dr. Foy advises that people should not exceed 60 percent of maximum volume when listening through headphones.
Duration of exposure to noise is also a major factor.
"As a rule of thumb, you should only use MP3 devices at levels up to 60 percent of maximum volume for a total of 60 minutes a day," says Dr. Foy. "The louder the volume, the shorter your duration should be. At maximum volume, you should listen for only about five minutes a day."
"The type of hearing loss due to headphone use is typically gradual, cumulative and without obvious warning signs," explains Dr. Foy. "A hearing test and a medical examination are the only way to truly diagnose hearing damage."