From Dr. Mercola:

Tinnitus, or chronic ringing in your ears, affects about 1 in 5 people. While it’s typically not serious, it can significantly impact your quality of life, and it may get worse with age or be a symptom of an underlying condition, such as age-related hearing loss, ear injury or a circulatory system disorder.1

In the majority of cases, tinnitus is diagnosed after the age of 50 years, however, recent research has shown that tinnitus in youth is surprisingly common and on the rise, likely due to increased exposure to loud music and other environmental noise.2

Worse still, it may be a sign of permanent nerve damage that could predict future hearing impairment.

One-Quarter of Youth May Experience Tinnitus, Risk Hearing Loss Later in Life

In a study of 170 students between the ages of 11 and 17 years, researchers from McMaster University in Canada found “risky listening habits,” including exposure to loud noise at parties or concerts, listening to music with ear buds and use of mobile phones excluding texting, were the norm.

More than half of the study participants reported experiencing tinnitus in the past, such as experiencing ringing in the ears for a day following a loud concert.

This is considered a warning sign; however, nearly 29 percent of the students were found to have already developed chronic tinnitus, as evidenced by a psychoacoustic examination conducted in a sound booth.3

Youth with and without tinnitus had a similar ability to hear, but those with tinnitus had significantly reduced tolerance for loud noise and tended to be more protective of their hearing.

Reduced sound level tolerance is a sign of damage to the auditory nerves because, when nerves used to process sound are damaged, it prompts brain cells to increase their sensitivity to noise, essentially making sounds seem louder than they are.

Prevention Is the Best Solution to Tinnitus

Auditory nerve injury that’s associated with tinnitus and heightened sensitivity to loud noises cannot be detected by typical hearing tests, which is why it’s sometimes called “hidden hearing loss.” Further, such damage is permanent and tends to worsen over time, causing increasing hearing loss later in life.

Because there is no known cure, the best solution is prevention. Study author Larry Roberts, Ph.D., of McMaster University’s Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour has compared the emerging risks from loud noises to early warnings about smoking.

At this point, many people are unaware that listening to loud music via earbuds or at parties may be permanently damaging their hearing, particularly since they may still hear normally at this point in time.

If more people were aware of the risks, more would take steps to turn down the volume and give their ears a break. Roberts told Science Daily:4

“It’s a growing problem and I think it’s going to get worse My personal view is that there is a major public health challenge coming down the road in terms of difficulties with

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