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.
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.