According to new research, an alarming number of young people are experiencing tinnitus from being exposed to loud music.
Tinnitus, the persistent ringing, buzzing, or whistling in ears, is often a sign of early hearing damage. It is not only unpleasant, but can also lead to severe problems like depression or anxiety.
“The levels of sound exposure that are quite commonplace in our environment, particularly among youth, appear to be sufficient to produce hidden cochlear injuries,” according to Larry Roberts of McMaster’s Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, an author of a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The study, which focused on 107 teens in Brazil, found that nearly all the subjects engaged in “risky listening habits” at parties, clubs and on personal listening devices. The noise exposure resulted persistent tinnitus in nearly a quarter of the teens.
The teens with tinnitus also had a significantly reduced tolerance for loud noise, which is considered a sign of hidden damage to the nerves used to process sound. The nerve damage is a more serious sign of hearing loss that will last into their adulthood.
A similar study in Belgium found that one in five high schoolers has permanent ringing in the ears. It is estimated that around 300 million people, or 10 percent of the population, worldwide are affected by tinnitus.
“The message is, ‘Protect your ears,'” says Roberts.
Check out these 10 Small Changes You Can Make to Save Your Hearing.