MTV, Harvard Web study reveals adolescent disconnect: Unaware of hearing peril, yet willing to listen

2 min read

While many adolescents and young adults expose themselves to loud music for entertainment, the researchers hypothesized that these individuals might not be aware that over-exposure could result in hearing loss. To find out, a survey was designed by the researchers and posted by the MTV Web site for three days. The survey included questions about views towards general health issues, including hearing loss.

Hearing loss was defined on a Likert scale as a low priority relative to health issues such as sexually transmitted diseases, alcohol/drug use, depression, smoking, nutrition and weight issues, and acne. Notably, most respondents had experienced tinnitus or hearing impairment after attending concerts (61 percent) and clubs (43 percent). Only 14 percent of respondents had used protective earplugs; however, many said they could be motivated to try ear protection if they were aware of the potential for permanent hearing loss (66 percent) or were advised by a medical professional (59 percent).

Noise-induced hearing loss has been reported as an increasing trend in children and adolescents by several studies. In a large national study, Niskar et al estimated that 12.5 percent of children aged 6 to 19 years have noise-induced hearing loss. Although short periods of exposure to amplified sound may be experienced without permanent hearing loss, the damage from chronic exposure to those sound levels is cumulative, so that a slight hearing loss in childhood can eventually become a substantial one in adulthood.