Hearing Loss

There are times in life when the situations where you’re saying, “I told you so,” give little cause for joy.

This is one of them. To me, it really wasn’t ever going to take a genius to figure out that the excessive and loud use of earbuds, headphones etc. was going to have very negative implications. Now, more and more, the evidence is coming out through research, and it’s really not good;

Half of all teenagers experiencing tinnitus and hearing damage, says new study

To me, this was really so obvious and predictable. I have also had concerns that excessive use of personal audio devices causes youngsters to cut themselves off from others and fail to engage and communicate with others, or really genuinely notice the world around them. Many mobile devices offer a warning about the risks of turning up the volume, but to many teenagers this is almost a fun challenge. When you’re a teenager (maybe especially a boy) we now know that the frontal lobes of the brain are not yet fully developed. They act as a counter-balance to the amygdala and regulate risk taking. When I was young the biggest risks came from occasional exposure attending concerts, clubs etc. where the music volume was very high. However, the difference here is that the music listening is for so many more hours a day and delivered directly in to the ears.

The challenge we face is talking to teenagers about the longer term risks of their actions all too often falls on deaf ears and fails to have the desired effect. Teenagers can rationalise to themselves that whatever they’re doing and whatever the risks, they’ll be lucky and unaffected. Sadly, the potential outcomes of such a game of Russian roulette are terribly risky.

I once knew someone who suffered quite extreme tinnitus. Its impact on her life was to interfere significantly with her sleep, her ability to concentrate on complex mental tasks and sometimes to be maddened by her inability to escape from the ringing tone in her ears. There is hope that some sufferers recover over time, but by no means all. Somehow, there’s an urgent need to find ways to reduce the risks. Maybe in this case the best route forward would be new rules that simply reduce the volume of personal listening devices.

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