Have you ever had to look around you to figure out where that incessant ringing was coming from? For many people, this ringing noise is nothing but a passing inconvenience. While you may have found it only to be a nuisance, chronic ringing in your ears may be a sign that something more sinister is going on. In fact, chronic ringing in your ears may be a sign of tinnitus. The most common cause of tinnitus is hearing loss associated with aging; however, hearing loss can also result from acoustic trauma that can occur when exposed to loud noises. While slight hearing loss and associated tinnitus is not uncommon with aging, new research published in PLOS ONE has found that 1 in 5 high school students have permanent ringing in their ears. What’s more disturbing is that the same research also found that very few of these students are taking precautions to protect their hearing, which can lead to serious problems as they age.
Approximately 4,000 Flemish high school students completed a questionnaire regarding temporary and permanent ringing in their ears. The questionnaire aimed to find the students’ attitudes towards loud noises and hearing protection. The results showed that 3 out of 4 students experienced occasional ringing in their ears, while 1 out of 5 students experienced permanent ringing in their ears. Additionally, only 5% of the students reported using any kind of hearing protection, such as ear plugs, when they are exposed to loud noises.
Tinnitus can have a drastic effect on a student’s life. Brian Fligor, a pediatric audiologist at the Harvard Medical School in Boston, states that tinnitus can often affect a student’s sleep, concentration, communication, as well as their ability to relax. This may impair their ability to learn and keep up with their schoolwork, causing them to fall behind academically. This academic struggle can then have a negative impact on college acceptance and future employment opportunities. Furthermore, if the younger generation affected by tinnitus leave the condition untreated, they may experience more severe hearing issues and potential hearing loss as they age.
In an effort to prevent hearing loss and associated tinnitus, parents can help educate children on hearing protection. Noise exposure should especially be monitored closely. Many young adults use earphones to listen to loud music for extended periods of time. If you use a personal listening device (such as an MP3 player or iPod), limiting the volume and length of time that you use it for is strongly recommended. One of the primary causes for tinnitus originates from loud music played for an extended time through earbud-type headphones. Because of their poor sound quality, many users turn the volume up beyond a safe limit to hear their music (especially if walking outside, sitting on a bus, etc.). Instead of earbud-type headphones, consider using over-ear headphones and certain in-ear headphones played at a lower volume. If you use earbuds, consider listening at a lower volume.
In order to prevent hearing loss, protecting yourself when exposed to loud noises is essential; this includes wearing ear protection when you’re attending loud festival or concerts or if you’re exposed to construction zones for extended periods of time.
To find out more about how you can prevent hearing loss, click here.
While there is no cure available for tinnitus or for the hearing loss that often accompanies the condition, students who experience ringing in their ears should seek help from their doctor. Doctors will be able to help guide those affected with the condition towards the right treatment option. In order to protect against further hearing loss, doctors should also children and parents on hearing protection devices that should be used during noise exposure. This will help to preserve the hearing that remains which will hopefully prevent serious future hearing problems.