Hearing loss in later life linked to youthful high volume


To prevent hearing loss when they get older, young people should reduce the volume of MP3 players, a deafness expert has warned.

By taking precautions such as using ear plugs and not exposing ears to dangerously high volume, people can cut their risk of profound hearing loss later in life, said Andrew Goodwin, information and outreach advisor at Deafness Research UK.

Recommending a hearing checkup at least once every 2 years just as with eyesight, Mr Goodwin said that early diagnosis of hearing issues is essential to preventing further loss, and that subtle symptoms can be indicative of a serious hearing problem.

Such indicators include struggling to hear in noisy environments and continually asking people to speak up. Those who have such symptoms should obtain medical advice, stressed Mr Goodwin, noting that some wait between 10 and 15 years before seeking help.

"Hearing aids can help prevent cells in the ear dying by stimulating them before they are lost forever," said Mr Goodwin. "Wait too long and once these cells are dead, they cannot be regrown.

"The latest Deafness Research UK-funded research is looking at regeneration of these cells as one way to treat deafness, but prevention is much better while there remains no cure."

A study published in the journal Psychology and Ageing found that lifelong musicians are more likely to retain their hearing than others in old age. Musicians are better able to detect short, silent gaps in a continuous sound, hear a spoken sentence among background noise and identify the relationships between different sound frequencies.

This suggests that using the auditory system at a high level on a regular basis could combat some age-related changes in musicians' brains.

However, Mr Goodwin emphasised that every individual, whether musical or not, should protect their ears from an early age to reduce hearing loss as they get older.

"The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) regards 80 decibels as the level at which hearing is threatened," said Phillip Gower of Simpson Millar LLP. "That's 20 less than a pneumatic drill. With some MP3 players reaching 105 decibels or more, there's clearly a risk to hearing that all users should heed if they want to avoid problems later on."

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