Keeping Kids Healthy
By Drs. Sally Robinson and Keith Bly

The latest song is blasting through the earphones of a teen’s iPod. It’s so loud the other kids can hear it, even though they’re a good 10 feet away.

We’ve all heard the noise: Whether it’s coming from a car radio, a concert, or yes, even those personal music players that are so popular now-a-days, it seems the volume on life is cranked up and the knob ripped off.

Can you hear your mother’s words ring in the back of your mind? “Turn that down, you’re going to go deaf.”

Nearly 27 million Americans age 3 and older suffer from some sort of hearing loss. That’s double the number 30 years ago.

In children, three main culprits make up the majority of causes of hearing loss. They are otitis media, hearing loss at birth and other acquired causes such as complications from the measles, mumps or a head injury.

Otitis media is an inflammation in the middle ear behind the ear drum, usually associated with a buildup fluid. Otitis media can last from just a short time to extreme periods involving ear infection after ear infection.

If that’s the case, it can cause permanent damage to the tiny bones in the ear drums that carry sound vibrations. Otitis media is the No. 1 cause of hearing loss in children.

Hearing loss at birth is another big factor in deafness in children. Genetics are linked to about half of all children born with hearing difficulties.

The other half come from prenatal infections, prematurity and other complications.

Finally, there are the hearing losses which are acquired. Things like head injuries, measles and even exposure to loud noise are all causes of hearing loss in children. Some of them are uncontrollable, but loud noises is one you can rein in.

So, how can you tell if you or your child has suffered hearing loss? Raising your voice to be heard is one way.

If you have trouble hearing someone who’s 2 feet away from you, that might be a sign of hearing loss. Also, pain and ringing in the ears after exposure to loud noise is a telltale sign.

Getting back to those iPods, here’s a great trick: Listen to your child’s iPod at the level they normally do. Turn if off.

When you turn it back on, if it sounds too loud, your child is doing permanent damage to your hearing. You may sound like a broken record, but keep reminding them to protect their ears.
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Did you know?

Sound louder than 80 decibels is considered hazardous to your hearing.

Some toys are so loud, they exceed 90 decibels. Ninety decibels is about as loud as a lawn mower and can sound even louder when children hold these toys up directly next to their ears.

Rock music peaks at the 150-decibel mark — about 30 more than a jackhammer and 20 more than a jet engine.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital, and Keith Bly is an associate professor of pediatrics and director of the UTMB Pediatric Urgent Care Clinics. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.