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Today’s teens may become prematurely hearing-impaired: study

Saturday, Jul 16, 2016,12:50 IST By metrovaartha A A A

Washington | Teenagers are increasingly experiencing tinnitus, often a symptom of hearing loss, according to a new study which suggests that this should be seen as an early warning that these youngsters run a serious risk of deafness.

Tinnitus is a result of using ear buds to listen to music for long periods every day, as well as frequenting very noisy places like nightclubs, discos and rock concerts, researchers said. Tinnitus is the medical term for perception of sound that has no external source. Many sufferers describe it as a ringing in the ears, others as whistling, buzzing, chirping or hissing, they said. We found a very high prevalence of tinnitus among adolescents, and this should be seen as an early warning that these youngsters run a serious risk of hearing loss, said Tanit Ganz Sanchez from University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. If this teen generation continue to expose themselves to very high noise levels, they will probably suffer from hearing loss by the time they are 30 or 40, said Sanchez.

Researchers used an otoscope to examine the ears of 170 students between 11 and 17 years old. They also asked the teenagers to complete a questionnaire asking whether they had experienced tinnitus in the previous 12 months and, if so, with what volume, duration and frequency. Over half (54.7 per cent) reported a prior experience of tinnitus, researchers said. This level of prevalence is alarming. There was a notion that tinnitus was a problem of older people, but we are seeing it becoming more prevalent in younger groups, including children and teenagers, because of their increasing exposure to high levels of noise, among other factors, said Sanchez.

Adolescents who reported prior tinnitus were submitted to psychoacoustic examination to assess hearing function. Administered by an audiologist in an acoustic chamber, the examination measured hearing thresholds using an audiometre as well as loudness discomfort and the intensity of any tinnitus experienced. During the psychoacoustic measurements, 28.8 per cent of the total sample (49 out of 170) perceived tinnitus in the acoustic booth, researchers said.

Researchers also observed that most of the teenagers who took part in the study reported risky listening habits, such as continuous use of ear buds and exposure to very noisy environments; even so, those who reported experiencing tinnitus displayed less tolerance of loud sounds. The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.