Teen Hearing Loss Going Undetected

hearing loss

One in five young people ages 12 to 16 have hearing loss, according to a 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Many have lost the ability to hear at high frequencies, but often the problem goes undetected due to limitations in traditional hearing tests.

Music volume too high
It’s common to see people wearing earbuds while jamming to music. Unfortunately, many play music at a high volume for several hours every day, increasing the risk for hearing problems. Other high-frequency volume levels are experienced when attending concerts, shooting firearms or riding all-terrain vehicles.

Difficult to detect
High-frequency hearing loss occurs subtly. Changes in hearing may not be detected until they are significant. At this stage, it may be difficult to reverse the damage. Often, hearing loss is permanent.

Hearing tested at low levels
During a hearing exam, individuals wear headphones and listen for sounds at various frequencies, usually only up to 4,000 Hertz (Hz). They’re asked to wave a hand when sounds are detected.

Hearing experts recommend equipment used for hearing tests should be updated for these reasons:

  • Tones at 4,000 Hz may be similar to playing the highest keys on the piano. Although these notes are not pleasing to the ear, the frequency level probably won’t damage hearing.
  • Conversations usually include words spoken at 5,000 to 6,000 Hz.
  • Music levels on personal devices often are played at levels higher than 4,000 Hz.
  • Many schools do not conduct hearing tests after middle school.

Hearing experts recommend parents and caregivers have teens screened by hearing professionals who have equipment designed to detect high-frequency hearing loss.

Recognize hearing problems
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports young people may be reluctant to admit they have a hearing problem. But if hearing problems are not caught early, kids may experience learning issues in school that lead to failing grades. Adults with hearing impairment may struggle to understand job requests, which could lead to issues at work.

Learn more about hearing loss by reading “3 Reasons to Turn Down the Volume.”