Teenage Hearing Loss

21 Feb 2011 12:00 AMChristine Barnes Teenage Hearing Loss

This morning’s Australian newspaper reported on teen hearing loss being on the rise due to MP3 use.  The actual study states that there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that a small percent of portable media player users are at risk for noise -induced hearing loss from abusive use.  The study estimates that using a personal hearing device at high volume, for two to four hours per day, over a ten year period may cause hearing loss.

In 2007 Dr William Clark from the National Institute on Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), America outlined that hearing loss has not declined over the last 25 years and may have even improved in the high frequencies. Clark inferred that the media was not reporting  on all the evidence. Henry Osiecki (B.Sc.Hons. Grad. Dip. Nutr & Dietetics) believes that up to ten percent of teenagers have a partial hearing loss due to excessive exposure to noise and loud music. 

However, although most professionals believe that noise induced hearing loss is the result of excessive vibration within the inner ear, Osiecki suggests that it may be due to free radical damage. Noise creates a surge of free radicals in the inner ear which then causes cellular damage in the ear.  The major antioxidant that quenches these free radicals is Glutathione.  Cysteine and vitamin B2 increases the levels of glutathione in the inner ear.  Together these nutrients can reduce permanent hearing loss due to loud noise. Coenzyme Q10 has also been found to reduce hearing loss that is due to high pitched sounds.

The truth is that a teenagers hearing is fragile and should be protected.  Their hearing threshold does not shift until approximately 17 years of age and children under 5 years have hearing that is very fragile, easily damaged and still under development. In my clinical experience adult hearing difficulties are more commonly associated with nutritional deficiencies and neuronal blockages from high cholesterol and poor cerebral blood circulation (diet and nutritionally related).

If you are experiencing difficulty understanding what people are saying, experiencing hissing or ringing in your ears etc the earlier you receive treatment the more likely you are to be able to make diet and lifestyle changes to slow the progress and possibly improve your hearing. The result of Dr Fligors’ study of 200 NY college students expressed concerns that habitual listening at high levels could turn microscopic hair cells in the inner ear into scar tissue.  This is definitely something that we should be concerned about.  If the villi are exposed to high volume for extended time, they may stop moving, or even lie down permanently (known as trauma), which may permanently damage hearing.

If you are exposed to loud noise, you may want to include some diet and lifestyle habits that counter the negative affects and will support your hearing long term. How can you take care of your hearing?

  • Obtain an accurate diagnosis of your current hearing status and possible causes of any limitations.
  • Conductive hearing loss may be due to wax build-up in the outer ear or a perforated eardrum or damage or defective ossicles.
  • Sensory neural hearing loss  may be from the vibrations that stimulate the tiny hair cells .  The hair cells transform the vibration into nerve impulses to the brain.  The hair cells may have deteriorated, or the nerve pathways may not be operating and preventing the signal reaching the brain.
  • Maintain healthy ear wax production by regular ear candling (do not use if you have a perforated ear drum)
  • Drink adequate pure filtered water – up to 3 litres per day.
  • Consume a balanced unrefined, low carbohydrate, high plant based diet full of antioxidants to support peripheral circulation and reduce free radical damage.
  • Use anti inflammatory herbs infused into warm oil to protect the ear after excessive exposure – seek professional advice.
  • Drugs and antibiotics can cause damage to hair cells in the middle ear and auditory nerves, use with caution, or seek natural alternatives where possible.
  • Support your immune system with a healthy diet and lifestyle, and when necessary use herbal medicine to avoid or treat middle ear infection, allergies, head colds, inflamed tonsils, adenoids, blocked Eustachian tubes, sore throats and other viruses.
  • Supplement with B12, folate, calcium, Vitamin E, C, lipoic acid, acetyl-L-carnitine, Fish oil and CoQ10.
  • Children and babies should avoid exposure to high volume sound and wear protective headphones if exposure cannot be avoided.