Hearing problems is on the rise and the increase is most evident among teens. A new research study by scientists at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston revealed that there is a 31% rise in the number of adolescents with some form of hearing loss. The auditory problems are sometimes mild and barely noticeable but they are there. And previous have shown that among the young, even minor hearing losses can affect communication and social skills, thus educational achievement.
The researchers examined data of over 4500 participants of the NHANES aged 12 to 19 years old and compared data from 1988 to 1984 vs. data from 2005 to 2006.
According to lead author Dr. Josef Shargorodsky:
The authors believe that noise is a major factor in this increase in hearing loss.
Indeed, exposure of adolescents to noise has increased in recent years, what with widespread use of portable music devices such as MP3 players and even mobile phones.
This is probably exacerbated in adulthood by increased risk for cardiovascular disease and unhealthy lifestyle.
In another study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, risk factors for hearing loss in American adults have been identified as environmental and lifestyle factors as well as concomitant diseases.
Environmental factors are mainly exposure to noise which results in high-frequency hearing loss.
What is interesting is the fact that the lifestyle factor smoking also results in hearing loss, both at high and low frequencies. In addition, hypertension and diabetes, too, can lead to high- and low-frequency hearing loss. The authors believe that the link between cardiovascular risk factors and hearing loss is due to damage to the cochlea as a consequence of microvascular insufficiency. Cochlea is the snail-shaped structure in the inner ear where sound waves are converted into nerve impulses. Damage to the cochlea results in impairment of transmission of those nerve impulses. The presence of cardiovascular risk factors in addition to exposure to high levels of noise can exacerbate problems of hearing loss.