SPECIAL REPORT: Parents Warned About Spike In Hearing Damage In Young People

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Noise charts show the ears can handle 85 decibels for eight hours, but the louder it gets, the less time you can listen before damage sets in.

One local doctor says her practice has seen a 40 percent increase in younger people with symptoms like muffled hearing and ringing in the ears. Many are concerned about permanent noise-induced hearing loss.

The home of Karma Lucas is like many in Central Ohio – noisy. She often has to tell the kids to “turn it down!”

Twelve-year-old Zach and his friend Cody like to max out the volume on their video games.

“It makes me feel like I'm actually in the game, in the fight,” said Cody.

Audiologist Dr. Mary Lou Luebbe measured the decibel level with an app, and it was pinging up to 90 decibels - that's in the zone for noise-induced hearing loss.

Luebbe says just a half hour at that level could potentially do damage. Zach admits that at times, the noise level is even a bit louder.

It’s not just video games – it is also music.

Zach's little sister, Cameron, uses her mom's headset to routinely listen to music. It’s so loud that others in the room can sometimes hear.

“My earbuds are broken, so these are the only things I have to listen in peace,” said Cameron.

Luebbe checked out the sound going directly into Cameron's eight-year-old ears. The decibel measurement peaked at 80 db.

“If you can hear the music (in the room) - it's too loud,” said Luebbe. “A child has a smaller ear canal; therefore the sound is even more intensified.”

The doctor says to think of child versus adult hearing like a garden hose. If you put the hose in a lake, it doesn’t make nearly the difference as if you are putting it into a small bucket.

“For the first time in history there are more people with hearing loss younger than retirement age,” added the doctor.

Corey Gillen is a drummer who has long worn ear protection, but he's had some bad bouts with hearing loss.

“You kind of get that fuzzy hearing,” explained Gillen.

Gillen learned that he has mild noise-induced hearing loss. Others aren't as lucky. 

Dr. Oliver Adunka sees patients at Nationwide Children's Hospital. He told 10TV that teenagers can do enough damage to require hearing aids in their 20s and 30s.

Results from surveys over time showed hearing loss spiked in American teens from 14 to 19 percent. And, 16 percent had high-frequency loss or the kind often associated with noise exposure.

“Most of that type of exposure starts early in life, kids listening to loud music, loud events they're participating in,” said Aaron Moberly, Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology at Ohio State University.

Moberly points to concerts and stadium sports. Shooting could also do damage.

“(I’m a) big fan of live music and love shooting guns, been shooting guns all my life and have suffered the consequences,” said Jarod Rishe.

Rishe never wore ear protection, and a recent long gun blast caused irreparable damage. He has tinnitus from years of unprotected noise exposure.

“You only have two ears, protect them while you have them. Protect your hearing before it's damaged,” he now says.

Rishe is only 29-years old, and he is what Cameron could become if she's not careful. Her mom knows it.

“I'm definitely going to monitor her headphones more,” said Karma Lucas.

The app measurement for Cameron's music was in the safe zone, but it measured only near the headphones and not what was going into her ears.  Audiologists believe it was louder and perhaps damaging.

As for Zach's friend, Cody - he says he'll lower game volume.

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 Protection Options

WATCH VIDEO

Columbus Speech and Hearing Audiologist Jessica Lockhart showed 10TV some protection options for young ears.  Keeping in mind that *prolonged* exposure to any noise at or above 85 decibels can cause gradual hearing loss, here are some situations she says require protection:  

A power lawn mower  = 90 decibels
A personal stereo at maximum level = 105 decibels
A rock concert = 110 decibels (regular exposure of more than one minute risks permanent noise induced hearing loss)