Lend an ear to this: How technology has impacted teens' hearing


Infographic by Maddie Shrager

19.5 percent. That’s how many adolescents aged 12-19 suffer from hearing loss according to Digital Responsibility. This epidemic can be traced back to the use, or rather, the overuse of technology.

Hearing, a vital sense, isn’t spared from the constantly-evolving, technology-filled world.

“Sound enters your ear in waves and crashes into the eardrum, moving three little bones called the ossicles. The ossicles hit the cochlea, a fluid-filled structure, triggering the movement of fluid, which in turns move the hair cells. The louder the sound, the bigger the wave-- imagine a gigantic wave in the ocean ripping up seaweed. That's what happens to those little hair cells,” AP Psychology teacher Jamie Paoloni said.

Sound above the value of 85 decibels, if listened to for a prolonged period of time, will most definitely cause hearing damage to varying extents, according to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). This means that listening to music at 60 percent of the full volume with headphones or earbuds has the potential to harm one’s ears.

“Turn your music down. I sound like such an old person saying this, but seriously, turn. It. Down. You’ll be thanking yourself later in life,” AP Psychology teacher Brooke Sandy said. “One in five teens suffer from hearing loss; that’s up a third from the early 1990s.”

Concerts, which most teens are familiar with, have music levels ranging from around 110-120 decibels. According to Everyday Hearing, just two minutes of exposure to a continuous level of 110 decibels can have the potential to cause serious hearing damage.

“WHen a sound exceeds 100 decibels, the equivalent of a concert or sports venue, your ears may ring,” Sandy said. “That’s sign that we could be doing damage to our ears.”

AP Psychology classes at the high school conducted experiments with mosquito ringtones. It involves playing sounds at varying frequencies to see what ‘age’ one’s hearing coincides with. Younger people should be able to hear higher frequencies because of their lower absolute thresholds--the lowest level of stimulus.

“I’ve read about changing and noticed a slight change with students in the last five years. One thing that is pretty consistent is the volume that students are listening to music, loud enough that you can hear it coming out of their headphones,” Sandy said.

Junior Pooja Keerthipati is just one of the many students in AP Psychology shocked by the results of the experiment.

“I was surprised by how much I couldn’t hear and how much the others in my class could compared with me,” Keerthipati said. “We keep amplifying the sounds while using headphones which causes us to lose our hearing.”

The newly proposed 60/60 rule, concluded by various studies, is an effective way to combat the epidemic of hearing loss plaguing the nation’s tech-obsessed teenagers. According to Chicago Tribune, it proposes a max limit of 60 percent of the total volume of a device for only 60 minutes per day. Through the use of this principle, hearing loss will have less of an impact.

Being wary is definitely the first step towards better hearing health. Simple steps such as turning the volume down while listening to music or skipping out on some concerts are just some of the many ways the youth can combat this hearing loss epidemic.

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