Now hear this; your kids may not be able to

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 4, 2014

Our children are losing their hearing at rapidly rising rates. The tragedy of this is it is a preventable self-inflicted wound. As a futurist, I can see that this unfolding mess will harm millions of kids, and vastly increase our nation’s medical bills in the future unless we act.
The biology of hearing is simple. Sound waves go through the ear and pass through a complicated forest of tree-like sensing devices located behind the ear, near the brain. This forest of nerves can be smashed by sound waves that act much like high winds in the woods. If the sound is too loud, or goes on too long, it breaks the nerves off, just like high winds damage forests. Unlike trees, however, once the nerves are broken they are gone forever.
That noisy lawn mower you ride once a week all summer long, or the day-long trip without ear plugs to NASCAR every week during race season can literally handicap you for life. So can your ear buds.
According to Dr. Rima Himelstein of Crozer-Keystone Health System, an MP3 player at full volume is as loud as a chainsaw — for hours. In 1995 (before ear buds), one in seven adolescents had hearing loss. By 2005-2006, the number was one in five.
Ownership of iPods and MP3 players went from 18 percent in 2005 to 76 percent in 2010, so the one-in-seven number is probably low.

School-aged children who are hard of hearing have a much harder time learning vocabulary, grammar and other verbal skills, and thus lower their employability.
Loud rock concerts are an occasion of serious risk. One study done in 2012 found that almost three quarters of teenagers who went to a loud concert reported hearing loss immediately after the concert. Days later, half said that they could not hear as well as before.
Here is a weird thing — the paid performers were protected under Occupational Health and Safety Authority safe workplace regulations, which limit their exposure to a safe level (85 dB) in the workplace. But the audience, subject to vast sound amplification, experienced unsafe 100 dB levels over the majority of the several hours long performance!
Now parents and others have available a free tool to rescue those who are engaged in risky behavior. If you Google “apps sound meter” you will find dozens of free or low cost applications to load onto your cell phone. Once installed (one click), you can measure the sound where you are. The app will keep a record of the average sound levels you experience during the day, and/or get a record of how many times during the day you were exposed to sounds likely to cause damage. As a parent, you can test your kids ear bud volume levels with your cell phone, and teach them to do the same.
Simply by lowering the ear bud volume you can save them years of expense and declining mental capacity because people with hearing loss have been found to lose their cognitive (thinking) ability 30 to 40 percent faster than people without hearing loss. The lack of a steady flow of new information through the ears contributes to problems with memory and thinking.

“Levels of brain function are directly correlated to the amount of hearing loss,” one Johns Hopkins study found. The authors pointed out that 27 million Americans already have hearing loss by the age of 50, and that by the time citizens hit 70, two-thirds have hearing loss.
Mental deterioration can be stopped if the hard-of-hearing wear hearing aids, but less than 15 percent of the hard of hearing do.
For those of you in education, several programs exist online that you can integrate into your teaching. Google “Dangerous Decibels,” “Listen to Your Buds” and “Turn it to the left.” You will find three free programs designed to integrate into the classroom and educate young people about this situation.
This is one national public health issue totally in our individual control. You can help our kids learn better in school, be more employable, lower their healthcare costs, and preserve their brain just by putting a free app on your cell phone and using it.
Please tell me you will.
To see the sources of facts used in this article, and learn of other successful money and life saving programs that can be implemented locally to create a better future for our country, go to www.TheOptimisticFuturist.org

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