Teens suffering from tinnitus risk hearing impairment–study

A new study suggests that there is an increasing prevalence of permanent tinnitus among teenagers.

Tinnitus or ringing is a kind of hissing or buzzing sensation that is a symptom of ear discomfort or nerve irritation.

According to experts, nearly 20 percent high schoolers are suffering from permanent ringing in the ears but very few adopt measures to shield them from exposure to loud music.

Sustained exposure to loud noise can be extremely hazardous and lead to hearing loss if not carefully monitored. People afflicted with constant ringing may be able to hear the same volumes of sound as before the damage but are unable to distinguish speech sounds due to a mix of noises, claim medics.

Brian Fligor, a pediatric audiologist from Harvard Medical School in Boston explained, “Bothersome tinnitus interferes with sleep, concentration, communication, and ability to relax.

“In short, in a teenager it means they will fall way behind academically, might miss a lot of school, repeat grades, etc. This of course has huge implications for future college and employment opportunities.”

Study of 4,000 Flemish high school students
Given that many youngsters are drawn to noisy environments, which are major risk factors for tinnitus, the researchers recruited 4,000 Flemish high school students.

As a part of the study, the subjects are asked to complete a questionnaire about temporary and permanent ringing in the ears. In addition, they were asked questions pertaining to their attitudes toward high pitched noises and hearing precautions.

It was noted that three out of four kids experienced temporary tinnitus and one in five endured persistent ringing, but only five percent took precautions like wearing ear plugs to reduce their exposure to very loud noise.

A word of caution
A whole younger generation of music lovers is suffering from ringing in the ears – from playing music too loud. They turn up the volume to drown out background noise without realizing the damage they are causing.

Though hearing impairment and tinnitus due to noise trauma can be treated with steroids or hyperbaric oxygen chambers, after a few days, the damage becomes irreversible.

Audiologists advise teens to keep their ears healthy by cutting exposure to very loud noise and monitoring the volume on their MP3 players. Use of safety ear plugs in concerts and clubs where noise levels are high can help safeguard hearing.

Lead author of the study, Annick Gilles, a clinical audiologist at Antwerp University Hospital in Edegem, Belgium stated, “It is always a very good idea to use hearing protection in noisy situations such as concerts, festivals (and) parties. In addition, the use of personal listening devices should be more carefully controlled.”

The results of the study are published in the journal PLOS ONE.