SATURDAY, Feb. 9 (HealthDay News) -- About one in eight -- or about 5 million -- American youngsters have noise-induced hearing loss, something that's entirely preventable, says the American Academy of Audiology.
The academy has launched a public education campaign, called Turn it to the Left, to boost awareness of the problem and explain how it can be prevented simply by turning down the volume of personal music players.
"The hearing loss kids experience now will accelerate the hearing loss normally associated with aging when these kids are in their 60s and 70s," Alison Grimes, academy president and head of the Audiology Clinic at UCLA Medical Center, said in a prepared statement.
"Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States and affects more than 31 million Americans. With the Turn if to the Left campaign, we hope to educate kids to turn down the volume and prevent hearing loss before it begins."
Grimes said it's a simple thing to turn down the volume, avoid areas with excessive noise, or use earplugs, but many children aren't doing it.
"Parents and teachers need to help educate kids at home and at school," she said.
Because children seldom complain about symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss, it can be difficult to diagnose. Symptoms may include distorted or muffled sound, difficulty understanding speech, or ringing in the ears, which is a sign of imminent damage. Youngsters may not even be aware of hearing loss, but it can be detected during a hearing evaluation.
"Kids need to have their hearing checked regularly by an audiologist, but more often than not, children don't see an audiologist until there is a problem," Grimes said. "Hearing is critical to children's safety and to the development of speech, listening, learning and social skills. With a little education, a commitment to turning down the volume, and regular visits to an audiologist, hearing loss can be prevented."
The U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has more about noise-induced hearing loss.
-- Robert Preidt
SOURCE: American Academy of Audiology, news release, January 2008