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Study: Hearing loss among U.S. youths has risen

The kids' hearing is not all right, a Journal of the American Medical Association study finds. Most recent data shows a 31 percent increase in hearing loss.

A new national study has found that one in five adolescents now suffers some sort of hearing impairment, according to a report Tuesday on NPR's All Things Considered program. That's a scary statistic.

Regularly experiencing ringing in the ears is no good. Steve Guttenberg/CNET

In the August 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston analyzed federal data collected from national yearly surveys of the health of American citizens. The conclusion is chilling: "The prevalence of hearing loss among a sample of U.S. adolescents aged 12 to 19 years was greater in 2005-2006 compared with 1988-1994."

The study found a 31 percent increase in hearing loss; researchers say this means one in five adolescents now suffers some sort of hearing impairment.

While the hearing loss is described as only slight, earlier studies have found that even mild hearing loss can negatively affect academic achievement and social interaction. Worse yet, the losses are permanent. If the young continue abusing their ears, they will suffer further hearing losses.

How loud is too loud? If an earbud headphone sounds loud to people nearby, it's too loud. If you regularly experience "ringing" in the ears, that's not a good sign. Take heed, or suffer the consequences. If you want to see where you stand right now, check out my blog covering a do-it-yourself hearing test CD. It's best to test yourself during a prolonged period without exposure to loud sounds, and then test again after attending a loud concert. You'll be amazed by how significant the overnight losses can be.

Thankfully, most of the losses are temporary, but repeated, sustained exposures to loud music or other loud sounds will, in time, lead to permanent losses.

For more information, go the American Academy of Audiology Web site.