In the week that I write this, hearing loss became really big news. For several days in mid-August, thanks to the publication of a report on the subject in the Journal of the American Medical Association, it seemed you couldn’t crack open a newspaper or tune into a news broadcast on television or radio without learning some variation on the theme of one in five US teenagers having a hearing loss. The lead suspect: portable music players, such as the iPod.
That percentage was called “stunning” by the Associated Press, “alarming” in the New York Daily News, and when translated to roughly equal 6.5 million children, it is both, of course. But from a hearing industry standpoint, I’m not sure if this is news, big or otherwise. Certainly it isn’t from a personal perspective that goes back nearly 30 years when I was knee deep in my teens and Sony revolutionized not just how and where I could listen to music, but how loudly. There were few places I didn’t go without my Walkman cranked all the way up to 10.
Ah, if the kid I was knew then what the adult I am knows today (for example: I now wear earplugs when cycling as protection against prolonged exposure to wind roar and street noise). And I think that wistful sentiment speaks to why the study’s results aren’t as dramatic to me as how they were embraced by the media. Because ultimately, education and awareness of the dangers are the keys to lowering the number afflicted. The more we know, the more ears we can protect.