Ask Dr. Abonso
12. My Two Teenagers Can't Seem To Hear Me Anymore. Are They Going Deaf?

Dr. Abonso: Maybe they just don't like what you have to say. Teenagers often develop hearing loss symptoms when their hormones are running high, especially for words like "no" and "curfew."

Suspicious Consumer: I can figure that out for myself. What I can't figure out is whether I should make a big fuss and bring them in for hearing testing, or just continue my patience-of-Job act until they grow up.

Dr. Abonso: It's a good question. More and more kids have been damaging their hearing recently. Audiologists who compare the hearing tests of kids today with those of 10-20 years ago find many more of today's kids have "old ears." In Marshfield, Wisconsin, many of the high-schoolers that work 40-50 hours a week on the farm have 50-year-old ears.

Suspicious Consumer: What damages their ears?

Dr. Abonso: Loud noise, loud music, explosions, stupidity. After a recent Beavis and Butthead show, kids decided that throwing firecrackers at each other looked like fun. Some ended up with a permanent hearing loss. A doctor at Boy's Town told me of a young girl riding in the car with her mother. A neighbor, "having fun," tossed a firecracker into the car; it went off in the air near the young girl's right ear and permanently deafened it.

Here's a list of hearing hazards:

  • Loud motorcycles
  • Boom cars (you can hear their music a block away)
  • Rock Concerts
  • Walkman players

Suspicious Consumer: Our daughter dates a guy with a big noisy bike and a van with a stereo you can hear two blocks away. Did I mention that my son plays drums in a rock band? When they practice in our garage we have to leave the house.

Dr. Abonso: Hmmm! Even symphony musicians are at mild risk from the sound levels on stage, according to a recent study of Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians. And there are more articles about hearing damage in rock drummers than any other musicians. Rock musicians often blow their ears out. I personally talked to one who completely blew out his left ear in one concert. Do you know Peter Townsend of THE WHO?

Suspicious Consumer: Who?

Dr. Abonso: I'll wager your son knows who is WHO. Townsend said "I've shot my's frustrating when little children talk to you and you can't hear them."

Suspicious Consumer: So my son's hearing is really at risk?

Dr. Abonso: In a word, yes.

Suspicious Consumer: Should I urge him to give up music?

Dr. Abonso: Good grief, no! Music is the most important thing in life. Never, never, ever give up music. Better to give up...

Suspicious Consumer: So what can I do?

Dr. Abonso: The first step is simple. You can buy a sound level meter for $32.00 at Radio Shack. Readings of even 100 dB (A) are OK for 15 minutes a day, but for 2 hours, 91 dB is the safe limit. Rock concerts sometimes clock in at 110-120 dB.

Suspicious Consumer: So if it is 100 dB for 2 hours?

Dr. Abonso: Use earplugs.

Suspicious Consumer: I'd rather she gave up her boyfriend.

Dr. Abonso: Your daughter doesn't have to give up her boyfriend to protect her ears.

Suspicious Consumer: My son tried yellow foam earplugs, but he said he couldn't hear well enough to play properly.

Dr. Abonso: No doubt. Those little foam E-A-R plugs are unequaled for maximum protection, but for music he needs what many Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians and drummers such as Rick Van Horn use: ER•15 Musicians Earplugs. Unlike most earplugs, they don't muffle the high-pitched sounds; they just reduce the level. Or your daughter might enjoy the less expensive ER•20 HiFi™ Earplugs. I have a pair and I wouldn't go to a Bulls or Blackhawks game without them.

© 1993

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