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Posted on Mon, Dec 24, 2012 : 11:01 a.m.

U-M poll: Parents concerned about effects of headphones, other devices on kids' hearing

By Lisa Carolin

Parents may want to think twice before they wrap up earbuds and headphones for their kids this Christmas. A new poll from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital indicates that the majority of parents of children up to age 17 in a nationwide sample are concerned about their children's hearing and support regular hearing screenings.

"Hearing screening for tweens and teens is uncommon," said Jaynee Handelsman, Ph.D., director of pediatric audiology for C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. "However, as the parents in our poll recognize, children in these age groups may develop hearing loss as time goes on, possibly from extended listening to loud noise, such as through personal, portable listening devices like MP3 players."


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Handelsman says that exposure to loud music through earbuds, headphones and personal audio devices can be damaging, but the duration of sound from computers, televisions, and video games can be just as damaging.

"The most common causes of hearing loss are listening to loud sounds for prolonged periods, especially close to the ear drums," said Dr. Matthew Davis, director of the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, and associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine in the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit in the U-M Health System. "If parents put a time limit on the use of things like earbuds, that can help reduce the risk of hearing loss."

Davis says that when kids listen to the TV with the volume up higher than necessary or repeatedly say "what," that can indicate hearing loss.

"Hearing loss can lead to less learning in the classroom and trouble with social relationships," said Davis.

In the poll, 77 percent of parents supported required hearing screening for 2-3-year-olds; 82 percent supported screening for 6-7-year-olds; 71 percent for 10-11-year-olds; and 67 percent for 16-17-year-olds.

"Screening in preschool and elementary school-age children is routine in many states," said Handelsman. "That screening is very effective at identifying children with hearing loss that can impact communication. Screenings can help get children the treatment they need before they experience delays in speech, language, and learning."

Handelsman says that she was surprised by the poll results indicating overwhelming support for required hearing screening for older children and teenagers.

"Hearing loss is an invisible disability, and does not result in hospitalization if untreated-but the costs can be social, emotional, and educational," said Dr. Marci Lesperance, division chief of pediatric otolaryngology at the U-M Health System, who said that this poll was the first time parents were asked about requiring hearing screenings.

The poll found that parents prefer the primary care office for the hearing screenings for preschoolers, and school-based screenings for tweens and teens. Davis says that hearing screenings can be conducted by state public health department employees trained in the use of special equipment, and can be done over the period of a week in place of physical education or elective classes.

For more information on the poll, go to



Tue, Dec 25, 2012 : 7:52 p.m.

This article cites a poll of parents and does not have any authoritative data on the relationship between earbuds and hearing loss. The opening remark that parents may want to reconsider earbuds because other parents voiced concern when asked in a poll is a non sequitur. Sure, who isn't concerned? But what's the actual threat?


Tue, Dec 25, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

Call me old fashion, but with all of the things that children are plugged into thiese days, i.e. ear phones for music, telephones in their hands continually texting this and that, and into the computer, they are missing so much. The world has many joys to offer in nature and the great out doors, it is sad that the children no longer take advantage of these joys.


Mon, Dec 24, 2012 : 5:28 p.m.

When their children reach early adolescence, nearly all parents begin seriously to believe the kids must be going deaf.


Tue, Dec 25, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

They do when they hit the teen years. Then it is what? I can't hear you. Must be going deaf. I hear that all the time from mine. So, no, nothing to worry about. The hearing is great. Just wait until they move out and then call home asking for money. Sorry, but this is nothing new and has be going on for a million years.


Mon, Dec 24, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

Mmmmm.....depends on the volume, I suppose. My job requires a headset, ear buds, etc., and I have used them for over 30 years. My hearing is just fine. I'd be more concerned about WHAT they are listening to. Just sayin.'