*Turn It to the Left!*
October is National Audiology Awareness Month
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Noise-induced Hearing Loss is Affecting More Children

Beckley Register-Herald (Beckley, WV)
By Bill Billeter
February 9, 2008

For more than a generation, young Americans have been plugging earphones into their ears and blasting music directly into their heads.

Evidence suggests the practice is taking a toll on the hearing of millions, causing permanent damage.

Five million children nationwide, or one child out of eight, have noise-induced hearing loss, according to the American Academy of Audiology.

“Basically, they need to realize that once it’s gone, it’s gone,” said Pamela Whitmore, an audiologist with Beckley Hearing Center. “And it (hearing loss) interferes with communication and activities.”

Whitmore said hearing loss makes music sound differently, makes softer sounds inaudible and can even make it harder to hear the voices of women and children.

Whitmore explained the inner ear has small hair cells that move in relation to the vibrations of sound. Over time, the hair cells wear down or shear off. Once the hairs are gone, the ear can no longer detect certain tones.

And once they are lost, they never grow back.

Noise-induced hearing loss can be difficult to diagnose because children and teenagers seldom complain about the symptoms, according to the Academy of Audiology. Those symptoms include distorted or muffled sound, and even a ringing in the ears.

Such problems can be compounded with age.

“The hearing loss kids experience now will accelerate the hearing loss normally associated with aging when these kids are in their 60s and 70s,” said Alison Grimes, president of the American Academy of Audiology.

The only way to prevent noise-induced hearing loss is to turn sounds down, or wear hearing protection.

The Academy of Audiology is launching a new public education campaign, “Turn It to the Left,” to raise awareness about the growing problem and how to prevent it.

“Turn It to the Left” refers to turning down the volume dial on personal music players. The academy has teamed up with rap musician Ben Jackson of Rhythm, Rhyme, Results to get the message out.

Jackson, who produces educational rap music, said he was surprised to learn how many people, especially children, suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.

“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,” Jackson said.

Jackson’s song is also called “Turn It to the Left.”

For more information on the new public education campaign, or to hear the song, visit www.TurnItToTheLeft.com