Listentoyourbuds.org, a one-of-a-kind Web site for young children, parents, and educators, has begun sending some very relevant prevention messages from cyber space.

The Web site is the latest resource of “America: Tuned In Today . . . But Tuned Out Tomorrow?” a public education campaign by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), Rockville, Md, about the potential risk of hearing loss from unsafe usage of personal audio technology. The site provides adults with a helpful and enjoyable opportunity to sit with very young children and receive prevention tips from the Buds, two friendly cartoon characters.

The Buds communicate in fun ways, not the least of which is “Turn Down the Volume,” an interactive game the young can play while they also learn how to protect their hearing.

“Listentoyourbuds.org stems from the findings of a poll ASHA commissioned this past spring,” says ASHA President Alex Johnson. “Parents indicated they find it hard to supervise their teenagers’ usage habits because older kids are out of the house for hours daily listening to their MP3 players.”

While the poll didn’t identify the cause, it did find that more than half of high school students have at least one symptom of hearing loss. Listentoyourbuds.org is meant to head off such findings in future generations of students.

“A prevention tack stands a better chance of being received by a younger audience and having a longer, lasting impact,” Johnson says. “Few groups have made young children a major focus of public education about using personal audio technology safely.”

The selling of personal audio technology products that appeal to the age group is not being overlooked, however. This year, toy manufacturers have introduced MP3 players for children as young as age 3, and sales of toys in the “youth electronics” category are running about 25% ahead of last year.

Meanwhile, companies that sell products for the very young apparently won’t lack for markets any time soon. Over the next 5 years, there will be nearly 6% more children ages 5 and under in the United States than there are today according to the US Census Bureau, and nearly 4% more children ages 6 to 8.

At listentoyourbuds.org, moms and dads will find a special parents section where they can become better informed about preventing hearing loss in their children. The section explains the potential risk that is part of using personal audio technology unsafely, and what parents can do about it. Noting that even minimal loss can harm the educational and social development of children, the section also has tips for parents to recognize hearing loss in their children and to find help if they do.

An educators section has information about lessons and classroom activities that teachers can plan around the idea of using personal audio technology safely. There is a wealth of reference material, plus guidance for recognizing and helping students who have hearing loss.

Some other listentoyourbuds.org features:

•     Available in Spanish (late October 2006)

•     Links to a wide range of information sources

•     Links to information about headphone upgrades

•    Video interviews with audiologists about safe usage of personal audio technology

•     A downloadable animation of ear damage from unsafe sound that can be a powerful visual for educators and media

[SOURCE: US Newswire, October 2006]