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As Teens Plug In, Parents Fret
Date:10/8/2009

Worries are justified, say hearing loss experts who urge prevention

THURSDAY, Oct. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Parents' worry lists are typically long -- and get longer when their children become teenagers. And high on many lists, it seems, are fears about hearing loss.

Parents, in fact, worry more about their kids damaging their hearing than they do about other health-related issues, including ear infections, sleep problems and asthma, according to a survey in the spring by the American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery.

The fears aren't unfounded, according to hearing specialists. As personal music players have become ubiquitous among teens, doctors say they are seeing increasing numbers of children and teens for hearing evaluations.

"We certainly are seeing more and more children who seem to have acquired hearing loss," said Dr. David Tunkel, chief of pediatric otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore and chairman-elect of the academy's pediatric otolaryngology committee.

Though studies that chronicle the rise in hearing loss are sparse, Tunkel said, the anecdotal evidence that hearing loss is occurring earlier is clear. "We certainly test more for it," he said, and other experts agreed.

About 12.5 percent of youths ages 6 to 19 -- or about 5.2 million U.S. kids -- have sustained permanent hearing damage from excessive noise exposure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The rise in popularity of personal music players, plus teens' love of loud rock concerts, underlies much of the problem, Tunkel said.

Dr. Marcella Bothwell, a pediatric otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, agreed. "Every kid has a personal music player," she said, and their love of rock concerts is well known.

That's a problem only because exposure to music from those sources can be dangerous
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