Huge increase in deafness linked to iPods

Posted by Emma Woollacott

IPods and MP3 players may be making teenagers deaf, new research suggests.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston have found that hearing loss in adolescents has increased dramatically over the past 15 years, and suggest that music may be the reason.

"Some risk factors, such as loud sound exposure from listening to music, may be of particular importance to adolescents," say the authors.

The researchers looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys of 12- to 19-year-olds. They found that a fifth had some evidence of hearing loss, while one in twenty had at least mild hearing loss.

But looking at the data from 1988, the team found there had been a 30 percent increase in the prevalence of any hearing loss, and a massive 70 percent increase in mild or worse hearing loss in the past 15 years.

“What makes hearing loss in adolescents even more concerning is previous research showing that teens underestimate the importance of hearing and the dangers of noise exposure, and don’t make protecting their hearing a priority,” said physician-investigator Dr Josef Shargorodsky.

The researchers also found that hearing loss is more prevalent in adolescent males than females, and more common in teenagers living below the official poverty level.

"Further research is needed to better understand the causes of hearing loss, why it’s increasing in prevalence and why it affects some populations more than others," said Dr Shargorodsky.