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

Now Hear This

Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (IA)
By Amie Steffen
January 23, 2008

WATERLOO --- It's one rap song you won't be bumping out of your speakers, because the lyrics implore you not to.

"Turn it to the Left," an educational rap penned and performed by musician Benjamin Jackson, details the problems of kids today. But they're definitely not your typical hip-hop problems.

"It ain't no fun, man, it ain't no fun / When you're 20 years old, but your ears are 81," Jackson rapped during a performance at the AudiologyNOW! conference last April in Denver, Colo., the likes of which can be heard on YouTube. "Imagine what it's like to be hearing this track / Except the words are all muffled and the beat is whack."

That's right --- "Turn it to the Left" is about turning the volume down on your music player, and the problems that result if you don't. Produced for the American Academy of Audiology, the rap talks about noise-induced hearing loss and is aimed at children and teens.

Normally only problematic for adults, noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL, now affects an estimated 5 million children across the country, according to the AAA.

Dr. Robyn Ritchey, a doctor of audiology who contracts with Covenant Medical Center, said she hadn't heard of many cases of children suffering from NIHL yet. However, "we see that more and more now, whether it be the iPods, cars with stereo systems, even some of the farm equipment now is very loud," Ritchey said.

The worst kind of headphones with regards to music players are known as "ear buds," which sit inside the ear and send music directly down the ear canal, according to Ritchey.

"It's more like sitting in the front row of a rock concert, or a jet engine; it's very damaging," she said.

Dr. Joseph Hart, an ear, nose and throat specialist with Allen Hospital in Waterloo, recently diagnosed a 14-year-old with noise-induced hearing loss, caused by both the use of an iPod as well as working in a garage.

"So that's what you're battling with kids --- they think they're indestructible," Hart said. "And it's not always right away. It can be years later."

Since there are currently no surgical or medical procedures to treat NIHL, protecting your ears becomes an important consideration.

"It's irreversible --- you can't get (your hearing) back," Ritchey said.

On the positive side, researchers at Boston Children's Hospital found that listening to a portable music player at just 60 percent of its potential volume for no more than one hour per day is relatively safe.

There is also the matter of better listening implements. Dr. W. Richard Burgman, an ear, nose and throat specialist with Covenant, said companies like Apple have been marketing more ear-friendly headphones that dissipate the music.

"The old type of headphone was the same as a hearing aid --- the noise would go directly in," Burgman said. "The new ones are like mini speakers. They sit at an angle so you can't get as much noise straight down the (ear) canal. It also gives parents a chance to hear how loud it is."

Parents can better monitor their child's listening habits and put a stop to overly loud music --- and hearing loss --- that way, said Ritchey. In that case, "Turn it to the Left" hits its mark.

"'If I can hear it, it's too loud' --- that is exactly right," she said. "You want to keep it down to prevent it."

Contact Amie Steffen at (319) 291-1464 or amie.steffen@wcfcourier.com.

MP3 How to protect your hearing

Understand how many decibels are too many. The American Academy of Otolaryngology recommends wearing ear protection, such as ear plugs, during any activity where 85 decibels are exceeded --- and to keep the volume down on portable music players --- while restricting the amount of time you spend around loud noises, if possible.

Examples:

--- Whisper: 30 decibels

--- Normal conversation: 60 decibels

--- Urban street, electric shaver: 85 decibels

--- iPod Shuffle: up to 115 decibels

--- Rock concert: 90 to 122 decibels