THE growing trend of US teenagers losing their hearing probably applies to Singapore ones too, as lifestyles in both countries are similar, said Associate Professor Low Wong Kein, a senior consultant in the Singapore General Hospital’s otolaryngology department. One of the main causes of hearing loss is exposure to excessively loud noise over prolonged periods, Prof Low said. “Leisure-related activities in young people like the use of MP3s and frequenting discotheques are probably important factors,” he said.
Such activities, and ageing, will cause the cochlear hair cells in the ear – which enable one to hear and cannot be regenerated – to degenerate permanently.
It is not known how common hearing loss is among teenagers here, as no studies have been done recently.
Associate Professor Lynne Lim, director of the Centre for Hearing Intervention and Language Development at the National University Hospital, noted that the harmful effects of listening to loud music may not be apparent in younger people yet, as these emerge gradually only after years of consistent exposure.
The safe level of noise exposure without ear plugs is up to 85dB – the level of traffic noise on the road – for up to eight hours, she said.
She advised people to avoid listening to very loud music, and wear hearing protective devices if
they know they will be exposed to loud noises.
They should also go for a hearing test every year if they are exposed to loud noise consistently.