Teenagers are being warned to turn down the volume on personal listening devices like iPods because prolonged exposure to loud music can cause lasting hearing loss.

"With all the affordable devices and digital media allowing us to download music and listen to it wherever we are, the risk of damage from listening to music louder than safe is a reality," said audiologist Mark Hansen.

Preventing hearing loss

  • Remember to turn down the volume when listening to music.
  • Use speakers instead of earbuds to listen to music.
  • Listen at 85 decibels or below.
  • Turn music off for 10 minutes every hour to give your ears a break.

According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, hearing loss in U.S. adolescents increased by about 30 per cent between 1998 and 2006.

Vitali Charanin, who developed hearing loss in his teens when a firecracker exploded near his ear, was unaware that consistent sound exposure for a certain time amount could be harmful.

"I would have heeded the warnings if they were made relevant to me," said Charanin. 

"Even with all the technology available in today’s world, you cannot completely repair damage to your ears … you will have to live with the consequences for the rest of your life."

Teens and loud music 'go hand in hand'

UBC professor and psychologist Lawrence Ward says teens often don't realize how dangerous listening to loud music can be.

"They are only thinking about how good it feels right now," said UBC professor and psychologist Lawrence Ward.


Audiologist Laurie Usher says teens can prevent hearing loss as a result of loud music if they change their listening habits. (CBC)

Grade 10 student Danilo Veljovic regularly listens to loud music, saying he doesn't feel the song the same way if it isn't loud enough.

"I can hear just fine as I did five years ago," Veljovic said.

Audiologist Laurie Usher says teens can take steps to prevent hearing loss — and it all starts with education.

"It is important for us to get the message out that the process of permanent hearing loss from music can be halted with changes in their listening habits," she said.

Do you have hearing loss?

  • Do you hear people's voices less clearly?
  • Do you frequently ask people to repeat themselves?
  • Does your family ask you to turn down the television because it is too loud, but you hear it at a normal level?

Source: Palo Alto Medical Foundation

"When this generation of teens hits middle age, the hearing aid manufacturers will be very busy and quiet listening environments will be in more demand."

Teens are advised to use speakers instead of earbuds whenever possible, listen at 85 decibels or lower and turn music off every hour to give their ears a break.

But Hansen said all the warnings in the world won't convince teens to stop listening to loud music.

"I'm sure all teens will listen to loud music — they go hand in hand," he said.


Hearing loss in U.S. teens according to a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association. (CBC)