January 16, 2008

Researchers estimate that about one in eight children suffer from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). In response, the American Academy of Audiology has launched a new public education campaign, Turn
it to the Left,
to raise awareness about the growing problem and how to prevent it.

More than 5 million children – or 13 percent – are estimated to suffer from NIHL, which experts agree could have been easily prevented if they took actions such as turning down the volume on their personal music players – or "turning the volume dial to the left."

"The hearing loss kids experience now will accelerate the hearing loss normally associated with aging when these kids are in their 60s and 70s," says Alison Grimes, AuD, president of the American Academy of Audiology and head of the Audiology Clinic at UCLA Medical Center. "Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States and affects more than 31 million Americans. With the Turn it to the Left campaign, we hope to educate kids to turn down the volume and prevent hearing loss before it begins."

Turn it to the Left is also the name of an educational rap created for the Academy by rapper Ben Jackson of Rhythm, Rhyme, Results. Jackson’s first experience with hearing loss was when his father, conductor Isaiah Jackson, was diagnosed with NIHL.

"I had no idea how many people-especially kids-suffer from hearing loss until my dad talked to his audiologist," said the 27-year-old Jackson, a first-year student at Stanford Law School. "I produce a lot of educational rap, so I thought I should write one that would speak to kids and alert them to the importance of turning the volume down on their iPods and phones."

Both the campaign and the rap address the dangers of hearing loss, but they also clearly explain how to avoid it. "The only way to prevent noise-induced hearing loss is to turn the volume down-just turn the dial to the left, walk away, or use ear plugs," said Dr. Grimes. "It sounds simple, but kids aren’t doing it. Parents and teachers need to help educate kids at home and at school."

NIHL can be difficult to diagnose because children and teenagers seldom complain about the symptoms, which can include distorted or muffled sound and difficulty understanding speech. Sometimes, there is a ringing in the ears, which is also a sign of imminent damage. Experts say kids
with NIHL may not even be aware of the loss, but it can be detected with a hearing evaluation by an audiologist.

"Kids need to have their hearing checked regularly by an audiologist, but more often than not, children don’t see an audiologist until there is a problem," Grimes says. "Hearing is critical to children’s safety and to the development of speech, listening, learning, and social skills. With a little education, a commitment to turning down the volume, and regular visits to an audiologist, hearing loss can be prevented."

For more information on the Turn it to the Left campaign, or to hear the rap, visit www.TurnItToTheLeft.com.

Source: American Academy of Audiology