HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Increased Rate of Hearing Loss Noted in Teenagers

The rate of hearing loss in teenagers has significantly increased. A decade ago, the rate was one in seven. The current rate is one in five. The NY Times reports on a new study published in the Journal of the Amercican Medical Association:

The new study ... analyzed data on about 1,771 youngsters aged 12 to 19 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 2005-6, and compared the prevalence of hearing loss with that of youngsters who took part in the survey in 1988-94.

The percentage with at least slight hearing loss increased by 30 percent, to 19.5 percent from 14.9 percent in the earlier study. For most the hearing loss is slight enough they may not even notice.

The number with greater hearing loss — called mild hearing loss — has also increased, from 1 in 30 teenagers a decade ago to 1 in 20 teens in 2005-6, the study found. With mild hearing loss, one might not be able to hear a person whispering in one’s ear.

Researchers could not explain why hearing loss had become more prevalent, and did not find a significant association with exposure to loud noise. But youngsters often say they are not being exposed to loud noise because they are simply unaware they are listening to music at dangerously high levels, said the paper’s lead author, Dr. Josef Shargorodsky, of the Channing Laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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