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Pull those ear buds out before it’s too late!
Doctors warn that a steady onslaught of loud noise, particularly through ear buds, is damaging the hearing of a generation wired for sound — although they may not realize it for years.
Earlier this year the World Health Organization warned that 1.1 billion young people are at risk of hearing loss because of personal audio devices, such as smartphones, and damaging levels of sound at entertainment venues like electronic dance music festivals, where noise levels can top 120 decibels for hours, according to an NBC report.
"Probably the largest cause [of hearing damage] is millennials using iPods and [smartphones]," says Dr. Sreekant Cherukuri, an ear, nose, and throat specialist from Munster, Indiana.
Hearing loss among today's teens is about 30 percent higher than in the 1980s and 1990s, Cherukuri estimates.
"You (once) had a Walkman with two AA batteries and headphone thongs that went over your ears," he told NBC News.
"At high volume, the sound was so distorted and the battery life was poor. Nowadays, we have smart phones that are extremely complex computers with high-level fidelity."
Cherukuri tells young patients to stop wearing headphones — especially earbuds, which place the sound closer to the ear drum, enhancing volume by as much as 9 decibels.
According to the National Institutes of Health, repeated exposure to sound over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. Permanent damage can happen in minutes, experts say, and when the damage is done, it's irreversible.
"Noise exposure in kids is a growing concern," said Nicole Raia, a clinical audiologist at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey.
Raia said she sees more tinnitus in young people, an early sign of hearing loss, but, "we don't catch them until they are in their 20s and 30s."
A study published in 2014 revealed that nerve synapses can be more vulnerable to damage than hair cells in the inner ear.
WHAT TO DO
Experts say the best way to protect young ears is to apply the "60/60" rule: Keep the volume on the MP3 player under 60 percent and only listen for a maximum of 60 minutes a day.
When using headphones in a noisy place like a school bus or subway, the tendency is the turn the volume up, so use headphones that cover up outside noise.
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