*Turn It to the Left!*
October is National Audiology Awareness Month

Keeping the Sound Down: Educational Campaign Launched to Prevent Hearing Loss

The Farmington Daily Times (NM)
By Debra Mayeux
January 17, 2008

Any loud noise can do it, cause hearing loss in a child.

The American Academy of Audiology estimates that more 5 million children have noise-induced hearing loss that is most cases is preventable. The first step is turning down the volume on their personal music players.

"You can get loud noise exposure, because you have a speaker in the ear," said Abbie Hazlewood manager of the audiology lab at San Juan Regional Medical Center. "If a child has an iPod on and that parent can hear it across the room, chances are it's too loud."

Parents can tell their children to turn down the sound, but when it comes from someone famous they might be more apt to take the advice, that is why the academy teamed up with Ben Jackson, rapper, in a campaign, "Turn it to the Left" to encourage keeping the sound down.

Turn it to the Left is also the name of an educational rap created for the academy by Jackson, whose first experience with hearing loss was when his father, conductor Isaiah Jackson, was diagnosed with noise-induced hearing loss.

"I had no idea how many people — especially kids — suffer from hearing loss until my dad talked to his audiologist," said Jackson, a first-year student at Stanford Law School. "I produce a lot of educational rap, so I thought I should write one that would speak to kids and alert them to the importance of turning the volume down on their iPods and phones.”

Hazlewood said while this helps, parents and adults should be aware that any loud noise can cause hearing loss. That includes motorcycles, explosions, concerts, etc.

"One person's music is another person's noise. Loudness is the issue. If it's loud it can damage the ear," she said.Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the U.S., affecting more than 31 million Americans, according to Alison Grimes, an audiologist and president of the American Academy of Audiology.

"The hearing loss kids experience now will accelerate the hearing loss normally associated with aging when these kids are in their 60s and 70s. ... With the Turn it to the Left campaign, we hope to educate kids to turn down the volume and prevent hearing loss before it begins," said Grimes, who also heads the audiology clinic at UCLA Medical Center.

Discovering whether a child suffers from hearing loss can be done by watching for certain actions or behaviors, Hazlewood said.

Those actions are:

In very young children they might pull at their ears, which shows discomfort.

A child that seems to respond to sounds and then sometimes doesn't.

A child that has difficulty localizing sounds. This suggests the problem could be in one ear or the other.

In New Mexico, hearing loss in children is common. Four to five infants out of 1,000 are born with hearing problems. Hazlewood tests them and sometimes needs to fit them with hearing aids.

"The youngest child I put hearing aids in was 4 months old," she said, adding hearing loss in infants often is due to the use of ototoxic antibiotics or interuterine infections before birth. Low birth weight also could be a factor.

In most cases parents are not sure of their child's ability to hear, and in noise-induced hearing loss a person might have difficulty understanding speech. There might be a ringing in the ear, which is a sign of damage, Grimes added.

While hearing is a critical part of a child's development of speech, listening, learning and social skills, Grimes said it is pertinent for parents to make sure their child can hear. "Kids need to have their hearing checked regularly by an audiologist, but more often than not, children don't see an audiologist until there is a problem." Grimes said. "With a little education, a commitment to turning down the volume, and regular visits to an audiologist, hearing loss can be prevented."