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News In Brief

Study: One in five teens has hearing loss

Daryl Paranada Aug 18, 2010

A new study says hearing loss among adolescents has climbed. One in five U.S. teenagers has slight hearing loss, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The survey’s researchers used a sample of nearly 1,800 children between the ages of 12 and 19 in 2005-06. They found that 19.5 percent had some hearing loss, compared to just 14.9 percent in a study that tested 3,000 kids from 1988-94.

(MORE ON HEALTH: U.S. cuts back on routine medical care)

Though it may be easy to blame the rise in adolescent hearing loss to the ubiquitous digital music player devices that most teenagers lug around, it may not be that simple. The survey’s researchers say that there was not a significant rise in the exposure adolescents had to loud noises between the ’05-’06 study and the ’88-’94 one. While they don’t rule out music as a cause of the increase in hearing loss, other factors – diet, exposure to toxins, an increase in genetic disorders, living in poverty – may play a role.

Most of the hearing loss was “slight,” which means sufferers are unable to hear sounds like a whisper or water dripping. But the study also found that the frequency of mild or worse hearing loss increased 77 percent. One in 20 adolescents between 12 and 19 has enough hearing loss that it could affect their ability to listen and learn.

The study also showed that males had a higher rate of hearing loss than females. And that most of the time, hearing loss occurred in one ear.

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