Your teen can have tinnitus without you even knowing it, because kids don’t think this is anything to worry about. But it is: future hearing loss.
Tinnitus was affecting a lot of kids between 11 and 17, as determined in a study of 170 kids.
“If this teen generation continue to expose themselves to very high noise levels,” says Tanit Ganz Sanchez, leader of the study, “they’ll probably suffer from hearing loss by the time they’re 30 or 40.”
Sanchez, who is associate professor of otolaryngology at the University of São Paulo’s Medical School, points out that kids and teens with tinnitus “run a serious risk of hearing loss.”
A little over 54% of the kids in this study reported tinnitus in the previous 12 months. “Ringing in the ears,” as tinnitus is often known as, is not an old-person’s condition.
Today’s kids and teens, perhaps more than any past generation, think that loud is cool. Everything just has to be as loud as possible. The louder the better.
If tinnitus in teens seems surprising, Sanchez explains in the report that despite experiencing tinnitus often, kids brush it off. They don’t get seen by a physician or audiologist, “and the problem can become chronic.”
Most of the subjects who participated in this study reported habits that can cause hearing loss such as the use of ear buds and being in very noisy places.
Of the 54% (93 kids) who had experienced tinnitus in the prior 12 months, 51 said they experienced it after listening to loud music.
Tinnitus is a foreboding of future hearing loss.
Nerve cells on a structure called the cochlea can be damaged by loud noise. The cochlea is in the inner ear. In response to damaged nerve cells, other parts of the inner ear try to take over. This causes tinnitus.
Sanchez warns that if kids and teens continue to engage in listening to loud sounds or being in loud environments, that by the time they are 25 they may have serious hearing loss.
Remember, this generation of youth is being exposed to a whole new level of noise. So even though you, as parents, somehow made it to young adulthood without significant hearing loss, you cannot use this as a yardstick to measure how your children’s hearing is going to be by the time they’re 25.
It’s time to sit down with your adolescents and teenagers and tell them about tinnitus. It’s funny how parents who stay on top of their kids’ dental health and vision tests are often the same parents who never give a single thought to hearing!