Dangerous new young adult trend on hearing loss vs technology


Update: The New York Times weighs in with a front page story (more below)

We’ve known for decades that loud music causes permanent, irreversible sensorineural hearing loss, and since time immemorial teens have always had a sense of invincibility.

However, there’s a very important — And dangerous — new trend we’re seeing with today’s youth: Watch this video produced by high schoolers, paying close  attention to the boy at 0:58 & girl at 1:18. You’ll see that these two teens have the attitude that “technology will fix the problem” …And that they are somewhat correct.


When you look at what these kids see in their daily lives, with the sophisticated technology in their latest iPhones, software, cars, and medical devices such as Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids, their optimism of technology addressing noise-induced hearing loss is not irrational — And that perception is causing teen deafness at an alarming rate, with the latest studies showing an increase from 14.9% in 1994 to 19.5% — That’s one in five — by 2006, according to this robust study in JAMA.

Hat tip to Mimosa Acoustics for pointing out this surprisingly insightful video, originally published here.

July 28, 2012 UPDATE: The New York Times weighs in with Working or Playing Indoors, New Yorkers Face an Unabated Roar:

The New York Times published an excellent front page story on July 19th on the causes and effects of recreational noise in the Big Apple, such as in restaurants, gyms, clubs, and with iPods. This well-researched article follows up on the excellent February 2010 story in the Wall Street Journal titled Pass the salt… and a Megaphone, which detailed why restaurant designers and managers are using “New Design Styles, High Ceilings and Hardwood Floors [which] Are Making Restaurants Noisier;” with the NY Times story connecting the dots between these noisy new venues and noise-induced hearing loss.

On page two of the online NYT article, we find another example of this dangerous new trend that “technology will fix it” in this quote:

One waiter at Lavo, who, like several other workers, did not want his name published for fear of losing his job, said he knew his hearing could be in jeopardy. But, he reasoned, slight hearing loss was inevitable, since he had also played in a band. “When it happens, it happens,” he shrugged. “Hopefully by that time they’ll have better fixes for it.”

Just how bad is the recreational noise level at Lavo, at 39 East 58th in Midtown Manhattan? Check out these first three paragraphs of the NYT story:

The waitress’s lips were moving but nothing seemed to be coming out. Hundreds of voices swallowed her words as a D.J. pumped out a ticka ticka of dance beats. The happy hour-fueled din rose with it, amplified by tin ceilings and tiled walls.

“I’ve been getting migraines,” the waitress shouted on a recent Thursday night, leaning in to be heard. She said that she woke up with her ears buzzing, and that her doctor had recently prescribed seizure medicine: “It decreases the amount of headaches you get.”

The restaurant, Lavo in Midtown Manhattan, is not just loud but often dangerously so. On that night, the noise averaged 96 decibels over the course of an hour, as loud as a power mower, and a level to which, by government standards, workers should not be exposed for more than three and a half hours without protection for their hearing.


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About the author

Dan Schwartz

Electrical Engineer, via Georgia Tech


  1. Dave Robinson
    March 26, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    These kids need to read this fact book on hearing loss. If they only knew more maybe they would change their life style.
    [Link verified by editor.]

  2. Todd William Tilley
    June 1, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    The generations of recent past and future are losing their hearing…this will create social and economic upheavel in society.

  3. Jim Waters
    November 28, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    I am an MBA Student at Saint Mary’s College in California. Our marketing class is helping to promote a new product from a very small company. We are not promoting a business, more of an awareness about a new product. We are very sensitive to the issue of hearing loss and are donating proceeds of the project to The International Hearing Foundation (IHF), based out of Minneapolis, MN. They are a very genuine foundation taking care of people of all ages with hearing loss. They help in many poor countries all over the world. Our project is to attract attention to the product via social media. If this post is offensive in any way. Please respond and we will discontinue the effort via forums.

    There is an option for rebellious teens listening to music at high volume and damaging their hearing. Check out PUREBUDS via Google, Amazon or Facebook. PUREBUDS are premium audiophile earbuds with unique technology to reduce hearing loss. LIKE us on Facebook.

  4. Frank
    February 6, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Actually, there’s a scientific reason for our love for loud music. In this article, the author points to a tiny organ called the sacculus as the cause of this strange hobby our kids seem to be into. Check it out, it’s pretty inspiring.

    Great post, btw!

    [Editor’s note: We changed it to an inline URL after verifying it’s not spam DLS.]

  5. Dan Schwartz
    December 20, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    From The Din In Dinner in The Eye In Dining, by Alison Pearlman:

    To McLaughlin’s observations about noise, I would add one more. The concurrent trends at culinarily ambitious restaurants toward communal tables and/or counter seating are subsets and exacerbators of the tendency toward loudness. Restaurants such as Avec (2003-), pictured above, and The Publican (2008-) in Chicago, the Momofuku restaurants (2006-) in New York, and The Bazaar by Jose Andres (2008-) in Los Angeles not only feature hard floors, walls, and tables; and, in most cases, also lively music. They compound these features by seating arrangements that encourage conviviality among strangers and friends alike.

    In her article, McLaughlin resuscitates a truism in restaurant design: that noise level in restaurants is a predictor of client age. The higher the decibels, the younger the crowd. I’d put a finer point on this claim. Loudness is not only something, as McLaughlin suggests, that young folks can withstand. It is something they are prone to liking.

    Environmental loudness is de-inhibiting in ways conducive to young people’s needs. The young, particularly the single, tend to want to meet new people when they go out more than older people do, so environments encouraging socially outgoing behavior, a signal of which is the sound level, facilitate mingling. Due perhaps to their higher energy level, young people are more likely to want to be loud than older folks, and an environment in which high decibels are tolerated or even encouraged might make a young person feel comfortable behaving spontaneously. There is more auditory “room” for them to move around in. The less constricting sound space acts as a behavioral cue.

    McLaughlin claims that this newer–and younger–fine diner desires a more informal dining experience. This much agrees with my own observations above about the young consumer. Where I part ways with McLaughlin, however, is with her claim that the same diner is “cost-conscious.” While there could be some truth to this, I believe McLaughlin is largely conflating the diner with the restaurateur. With entrees in the thirty-dollar range at many of these restaurants, the cost of a night out at any one of them can be comparable to the white-table-cloth places. But to be able to charge thirty-something for an entree without the overhead of laundering linens and deep-cleaning carpets night after night is of greatest financial advantage to the restaurateur.

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