Children's Hearing Health, Noise in Toys, Sound Levels in Music Players

First-Ever Conference Explores Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Children

October 17, 2006--Every day, children and teenagers face an invisible danger: noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), the permanent damage to hearing that occurs as a result of noise. NIHL can result from exposure to brief bursts of loud noise, such as gunshots, or continuous exposure to high-volume sound, such as music in portable audio players.

About 12.5% of all US children ages 6-19 have hearing loss as a result of noise, estimate the authors of a recent study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite its effects on millions of young people in the US, many medical and scientific questions about NIHL in children are still waiting to be answered. Researchers are only beginning to explore the most effective educational and technological methods for reducing its prevalence.

That's why researchers have organized the first-ever conference exploring NIHL in children. The conference, called "Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Children at Work and Play," will take place on October 19-20 at the Embassy Suites Hotel Cincinnati-Rivercenter in Covington, Kentucky. The Cincinnati area, home to so many of the nation's firsts, is slated to be the birthplace of a new, large-scale movement to raise awareness of this issue and prevent NIHL specifically in youth. Researchers from all over the US and abroad will gather to share knowledge, discuss best practices, and plan future studies for reducing this major problem, which affects people starting at the earliest ages.

"The National Institutes of Health estimates that one-third of hearing losses are due to noise-induced hearing loss," said meeting co-organizer William Martin, Ph.D., Professor of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon. "Many children are noise-exposed at a young age. The conference will afford a unique opportunity for collaboration," he said, "with the mutual goal of preventing NIHL in youth and promoting accurate public information dissemination."

"We need input and contributions from many professional areas to ultimately be successful in this endeavor," said co-organizer Deana Meinke, Assistant Professor of Audiology and Speech-Language Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado. "The conference is already successful in my mind, because it has encouraged research and collaborations and has public agencies considering the issue."

The conference will feature 44 presentations by leading researchers. To see the meeting abstracts, please go to http://www.hearingconservation.org/conf_childrenconf_program.html. More information on any of the conference papers is available upon request.

Meeting topics include:

*Noise in common children's toys. Recent toys have potentially harmful sound levels exceeding 100 decibels from just 10 centimeters away from the surface, according to Julee Sylvester of the Sight & Hearing Association, exceeding levels recommended in recently introduced voluntary standards. She will review some recent sound measurements of toys taken from the shelf. In a separate study, Samuel Bittel of Nova Southeastern University in Florida will present sound levels in common children's toys reported by families over a typical week.

*New analyses of children's hearing health in recent years suggests that noise-induced hearing loss may have declined or not worsened from studied time periods of 1935-36 and 1963-70 to 1988-94, and for 20-year-old workers tracked between 1970-85.

*Electronic mannequins, designed in some cases by students, allow people to measure the sound levels from the music in their portable music players, and determine if the volume levels pose a threat to their hearing.

*Possible socioeconomic disparities may exist in hearing loss prevention efforts, suggesting the need for competent hearing education strategies across the entire socioeconomic spectrum.

* Children from several states will present posters on how they educating their peers on the risks of noise through public service announcements, warning labels, and contacts with companies and public service officials.

*Noise exposure levels will be presented for teenagers working in various job settings , from farms to factories.

*Educators and scientists will present programs such as WISE EARS!, Sound Sense, Dangerous Decibels (Martin et al.), collecting hearing data from almost 40,000 museum visitors and aiming to educate children and other members of the general public on the health hazards of noise.

*Researchers are presenting insights on issues such as designing high-fidelity earplugs for children; exploring output levels in portable music players; and determining whether earphone type affects one's risk for noise-induced hearing loss.

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This NIOSH grant funded conference is jointly sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control; National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH); the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD); the National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA); the Marion Downs Hearing Center (MDHC); the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and the University of Northern Colorado (UNC). Conference contributions have also been received from the Acoustical Society of America (ASA); AEARO Technologies; the Deafness Research Foundation (DRF); Etymotic Research, Inc. and 3M.

Virtual pressroom with news releases and lay language papers can be found at http://www.hearingconservation.org/ns_virtualPress.html


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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