Hearing may be issue for youth

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 21/12/2012
Toya Olson
NATASHA MARTIN/Fairfax NZ
DAMAGING HABITS: Toya Olson, 11, has been listening to loud music on an iPod since she was about 7. She said most of her friends do the same. Though she may be damaging her hearing, a test revealed it's normal.

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As Timaru's population ages, progressive hearing loss is anticipated but what of the younger generation and the effects of high-volume car stereos and portable music players?

Loud sounds such as high volume portable music players, live bands, car stereos and gunshots can damage hearing over shorter periods than other noises, but the results may not be obvious until the person reaches their 30s or 40s.

The tiny hairs in the inner ear that convert sound vibrations into electrical impulses become slow to stand up, preventing the pulses reaching the brain.

LIFE Unlimited Hearing Therapy Services hearing therapist Heather Talbott said it is possible that the younger generation's hearing damage may show up earlier, but it was hard to predict.

"The longer they are exposed to noise without a break and no protection, the more loss."

A portable music player should not be played for more than an hour, or be loud enough for the person beside the listener to hear the music.

Car stereos that vibrate the footpath as they pass sometimes have an output of eight times more power (about 800 watts), than an average home stereo system with about 100 watts.

Ringing ears after listening to high volume music is the brain's response to loud noise. "The brain recognises that a certain frequency is not being heard so it creates the ringing noise to compensate."

Usually the ringing will stop within 24 hours in young people, but as we age our hearing will not return as quickly, and the effects could lead to permanent damage.

Of several people who completed a recent hearing test, singer Alice Sollis, 51, does not suffer from ringing in her ears. But Emily Barnes, 14, said after a particularly good junior brass band practice playing the euphonium, trombone or baritone horn her ears will ring for about 30 minutes, while guitarist Brent Campbell, 36, said his ears also did after a gig or after going to nightclubs.

Ms Talbott said this showed their ears were under too much stress. Custom-made ear plugs were now available that still allow the wearer to hear but the frequency peaks are flattened, so the ear is not bombarded at the same point.

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- The Timaru Herald

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