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Hearing screening tests are offered at University of the Pacific Hearing and Balance Centers in Stockton and San Francisco

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Pacific News

Do you hear what I hear?

Dec 15, 2017

University of the Pacific experts offer holiday gift tips to avoid hearing loss; research estimates that 1 in 5 American teenagers suffer hearing loss from earbuds

Every year there are more and more electronic devices that have ear components for users, commonly known as earbuds or ear pods. The number of these devices sold worldwide has increased from 236 million in 2013 to an estimated 334 million in 2016, according to consumer data compiled by the research firm Statisa, and experts predict continued growth this holiday season.

"While entertainment technology like earbuds are very popular, consumers need to realize that these devices have substantial risk for hearing loss or ear damage, especially for youth, and it could be permanent," said Dr. Rupa Balachandran, department chair and professor of audiology at University of the Pacific in San Francisco.

"Earbuds and headphones can damage your hearing when you repeatedly listen to music at a high volume, which can fatigue or damage the ear's sensory cells," said Jan De la Cruz, an audiology resident at Pacific in Stockton. "Research has shown that teens are the most at-risk, with estimates that 1 in 5 American teenagers suffer from hearing damage caused by use of earbuds at high volumes. In many cases that hearing loss is not reversible."

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 85 decibels of sound pressure (dB SPL) is the recommended level for safe exposure for up to eight hours, but the output of consumer devices may range from 75 to as high as 136 dB SPL. 

"If you suspect your child or teen might have hearing loss, I recommend a hearing test as soon as possible," said Dr. Gail Amornpongchai, clinical director of audiology at Pacific's Stockton Hearing and Balance Center. Common symptoms of hearing loss include difficulty concentrating, frequently asking people to repeat what was said, increased TV volume, difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments, or speech that sounds muffled or mumbled.

Tips for parents this holiday season
Here are some tips from the audiology experts at University of the Pacific, compiled by Jan De la Cruz:

  • The easiest way to help prevent hearing loss from listening to personal electronic devices is to follow the 60/60 rule - listen at no more than 60 percent of the maximum volume, for no more than 60 minutes per day. Talk to your kids about the importance of protecting their hearing by following this rule.
  • If you are buying electronic devices as holiday gifts, select over-the-ear headphones, especially with active noise-cancelling, instead of earbuds. These eliminate environmental noises and, in turn, the user will require less volume to enjoy music clearly. Remember, the lower the volume, the lower the risk of hearing loss.
  • Over-the-ear headphones or well-fitting earbuds with foam or silicone tips naturally block out more background noise, allowing the user to listen to music more clearly and at a lower volume.
  • For avid club, concert and music festival attendees, musicians' earplugs are a safe way to enjoy music clearly at a safer level. These earplugs are made of silicone and not foam, which filters the volume without making the music sound dull or muffled.
  • Get an annual hearing screening. The sooner hearing loss is identified, the sooner it can be treated - no matter what age. Because hearing loss develops gradually and the signs can be difficult to spot early on, having annual hearing tests can help pinpoint problems as soon as they develop, increasing the odds for successful treatment. The entire family can do this for free in Stockton or downtown San Francisco at one of the University of the Pacific Hearing and Balance Centers. Hearing screenings are free and take less than an hour. Clinic info:

Media contact:
Keith Michaud | 209.946.3275 (office) |

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