Sound Advice

To the editor:

I am writing in reference to the article titled "Tech devices causing hearing loss in teens" which was featured in the Plain Talk on Oct. 8. The author Justin Rust presented an excellent article, and audiologists Dr. Matt Rumsey and Dr. Terry Shive provided some excellent comments.

I believe it is important to bring to mind some other points that were not brought to light in this article.

It is important that we remind parents and anyone who has hearing concerns to bring this up with their primary care physician (pediatrician, family practice physician, internist, obstetrician, etc). These primary care providers can refer the patient to an audiologist, or to an otolaryngologist (an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist) as indicated. A patient needs to understand that hearing loss is invisible, and although the physician looks in a patient's ear, they cannot see the hearing loss. Therefore, it is imperative that the parents or the patient express any concerns regarding hearing.

During my training at Mayo Clinic-Scottsdale I recall one of the pediatricians comments, "When there is a speech delay, we need to make sure the hearing is okay." If a parent has concerns in regards to the development of their child's speech articulation or language development, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends ruling out a hearing deficit. A simple hearing screening might be able to be carried out in the pediatrician's office, or the pediatrician can refer the patient to an audiologist.

There is a strong association with minimal hearing loss in children and academic and behavioral performance in school (Bess et al, 1998). Children with hearing loss expend more effort in listening than children with normal hearing (Hick et al, 2002). Although a child may have a hearing deficit, parental concerns are not always a good predictor of normal hearing (Cone et al, 2010). Gratefully, most schools perform routing hearing screenings, and parents are encouraged to follow through with recommendations as a result of those hearing screenings.

The American College of Physicians (Internal Medicine) and the American Academy of Family Physicians, also, have recommendations for referring patients for hearing evaluation when the patient presents with a hearing concern, or when the physician perceives a hearing deficit during the course of the examination. Compared to hearing-impaired people who use hearing aids, those who do not use hearing aids are more likely to report sadness and depressions; worry and anxiety; paranoia; less social activity, and emotional turmoil and insecurity (National Council On Aging, 1999)

In regards to Personal Stereo Systems (PSP), a research article indicated that listening at 50 percent volume or less is generally a safe volume (Fligor, 2006) which is about 81dBA. Listening at full volume is safe for only one minute. This is a general rule of thumb for televisions when a person is sitting in close proximity. If a person needs to listen to a television set at greater than half-volume, there is almost a 100 percent chance that person has a significant degree of hearing impairment.

Excellent article. Remember if we don't protect what we hear today, it might be gone tomorrow.

Jason R. Howe, MS, FAAA
Clinical Audiologist
Yankton Medical Clinic, PC

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