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Study: Taking Proactive Steps to Protect Your Ears

A new study confirms a common-sense notion: Earplugs can shield you from the temporary hearing loss that can happen after a high-decibel music concert.

While getting young people wear earplugs at concerts may be a long shot, one expert said the threat to their hearing is real – and not just from loud concerts.

“Just think of young people wearing earbuds or earphones, and you can hear their music when they’re 20 feet away,” says Lehigh Valley Health Network otolaryngology specialist Kevin Kriesel, MD, of LVPG Ear, Nose and Throat. “The potential for hearing loss among young people from excessive sound is not something you can ignore.”

In fact, the study said, the number of American teens with hearing loss has jumped 31 percent since 1988, according to federal government data.

One reason for that trend is increased exposure to loud music at venues such as concerts, festivals and nightclubs, the researchers said. And as Kriesel points out, the potential damage to young people listening to music out of their phones or other devices can be just as problematic.

Is there a way for kids to enjoy the music, but at safer, lower decibel levels? Consider statistics captured from the earplugs study.

The study included 51 people, average age 27, attending an outdoor music festival for 4.5 hours. Half were randomly selected to use earplugs.

The average noise level during the festival was 100 decibels, which is known to pose a threat to hearing.

After the festival, temporary hearing loss was diagnosed in nearly half (42 percent) of those who did not wear earplugs, but only 8 percent of those who had used them.

What's more, the rate of post-concert tinnitus (ringing in the ears) was 40 percent in those without earplugs, but just 12 percent in those who wore them.

For more information, download an ENT information guide at LVHN.org/ENTguide.