Your teenager could be at risk of a common hearing problem

NORWALK, Conn. (WTNH) – Get your teen tested if you suspect there’s a problem with their hearing.

“Now I’m going to switch over to your left ear,” explains Audiologist Dawn Boyce.

In a recent survey in Brazil, teenagers were asked about a condition known as tinnitus that causes ringing or buzzing in the ears.

“This particular study looked at children between the ages of 11 and 17. There were 170 students included in the study and they found the prevalence of tinnitus was 28%- which is pretty high.”

Dawn is an audiologist with CT ENT Sinus and Allergy.

“It’s a fairly low prevalence at the moment but unfortunately I do expect that to increase due to the noise exposure that kids today are being exposed to.”

Long exposure to loud noise and cranked up personal listening devices can lead to tinnitus.

“It can affect sleep, it can affect their ability to concentrate – to focus on what they need to do.”

The damage is done in the sensory hair cells located in the inner ear or cochlea.

“And when those hair cells are damaged, the electrical impulses that are sent to the brain can be perceived as noise or tinnitus.”

There’s no cure — so prevention is key. Dawn Boyce recommends using ear buds sparingly.

“Ear buds because of the way they fit in the ear exert what we call a higher sound pressure level in the ear and that can be damaging, more damaging in a shorter period of time in a lower volume.”

Also – keeping the volume at 50 percent is ideal. And limiting length of time.

Plus- when you can use earphones instead of ear buds. Treatment includes hearing instruments like this one — that can mask the debilitating tinnitus sound.

“They allow us to substitute another sound, a more pleasant sound. Hopefully in a sound the patient can control for their tinnitus in hopes that it can mask that tinnitus and make it less noticeable.”

That more pleasant sound can be the sound of ocean waves.

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