Don't Blame the Headphones if Kids Aren't Listening, Study Says

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Tweens, Research Reveals: Teens

Turns out, teens not listening has little to do with hearing loss from headphones. Credit: Getty

Karma is cruel.

Well, it ought to be, anyway. It would be more fun.

You know all those headphones, earpieces and other assorted gizmos teenagers stick in their ears? The ones we tell them will ruin their eardrums? Turns out, they won't affect their hearing at all.


Time magazine reports some Harvard University researchers debunked what would have been a delicious bit of poetic justice by surveying some 4,300 headphone zombies ages 12 to 19 during two different time periods.

Researchers found no significant hearing loss between 2005 and 2006 -- echoing their findings from 1988 to 1994.

They questioned kids about their exposure to loud noise or music through headphones in the previous 24 hours. Only 17 percent of them said they experienced any difference in their hearing in the 2005-2006 period. That percentage was 16 percent in 1988-1994.

According to Time, the percentages remained low, even though teenagers reported greater exposure to loud noises (known in youth slang as "music").

Interestingly, boys are more likely to trash their hearing than girls.

Elisabeth Henderson of Harvard Medical School and the study's lead author, tells Time this is not because of biological differences between boys and girls. Instead, she says, boys are just exposed to louder noises while both working and playing.

She tells the magazine the greatest risk to young people's hearing is not from iPods but from real life.

"Noise levels at concerts and clubs can be very high -- high enough to exceed Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety thresholds and much higher than the normal listening levels of a personal MP3 player," Henderson tells Time.

"It's important for teens to realize that most musical artists and performers wear some form of hearing protection while on stage," she adds. "Hearing protection is cheap and readily available at most pharmacies."

However, most kids can hear just fine. But do they listen? That's another story.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.