Hearing loss increases among teens

August 18, 2010 12:18:33 PM PDT
We normally associate hearing loss with aging, or a birth defect. However, a new study finds younger people- particularly teenagers- are suffering more hearing loss more than ever before.

The increase in hearing loss leaves teens like 17-year-old Alexa Curhan very concerned.

A project at her school brought the hearing issue to her attention and made her very interested in her sound environment.

"I realized how loud even the lunchroom is and when I'm going home listening to my music, or if we're going to concerts, or even sports events," said Curhan.

According to Josef Shargorodsky, MD Brigham and Women's Hospital, about one out of five adolescents in the United States has at least some evidence of hearing loss and moreover about one out of 20 has at least mild hearing loss."

Dr. Shargorodsky and his fellow co-authors studied national data from hearing tests performed on teenagers. One group was tested between 1988 -1994, and the second group from 2005- 2006.

"What surprises us a little bit is that difference between the previous time that this data was gathered and the most recent. There was a 30 percent increase in prevalence of any hearing loss in this age group and there was a much greater about 50 percent increase in the prevalence of mild or worse hearing loss," said Dr. Shargorodsky.

They also found that high frequency hearing loss was more common than low frequency hearing loss.

"Once you lose it, it's not coming back, so just be careful of how much noise exposure you have," said Dr. Shargorodsky.

Now, researchers say the next step is to try and determine hearing loss risk factors for those in this age group.

"In this study, associations we found were that girls were less likely to have hearing loss and people living below the federal poverty threshold had more hearing loss," said Shargorodsky.