Today’s American teenagers have a higher degree of hearing loss than those evaluated in the 1980s and 1990s, a report in the Aug. 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association says.
The prevalence of any hearing loss rose by about a third, from 14.9 percent to 19.5 percent, the researchers found. The damage was more likely to be in both ears and to impair teenagers’ ability to hear high-pitched sounds. Hearing loss was also significantly more prevalent in youths with family incomes below the federal poverty line than for students from more advantaged households.
The findings were based on comparing hearing tests of about 3,000 12- to 19-year-olds from the 1980s and 1990s with tests of nearly 1,800 12- to 19-year-olds in 2005 and 2006. Even slight hearing loss can impair learning, the report says.
The authors did not speculate on why more teenagers are suffering more hearing loss now than in the past. However, they noted that loud music and “personal stereo devices” could be a factor.
A version of this article appeared in the August 25, 2010 edition of Education Week as Adolescent Health