Survey of Teens and Adults about the Use of Personal Electronic Devices and Headphones
Hearing loss as they age may be a real danger for young people, but it is a danger of which many of them are aware. On the other hand, adults seem less concerned about the dangers to their own hearing, even though in some instances they use some of these products for longer periods and at higher volume than do teens.
High school students surveyed are more likely than adults to say they have experienced three of the four symptoms of hearing loss: turning up the volume on their television or radio (28% students vs. 26% adults); saying "what" or "huh" during normal conversation (29% students vs. 21% adults); and tinnitus or ringing in the ears (17% students vs. 12% adults). More disturbing is that less than half of high school students (49%) say they have experienced none of these symptoms, compared to 63% of adults who say this. Among students, African Americans and Hispanics are more likely than whites to report that they have experienced at least some of these symptoms of hearing loss.
Significant majorities of students say they use a cell phone (82%) and a walkman or portable CD player (62%). For both of these products, they are more likely to use them than are adults (78% and 36% respectively). In fact, for all but one of these products, students are more likely than adults to use them, or in the case of portable televisions or DVD players, equally likely to use them. Only of laptops are adults more likely to use the product than are teens.
For a few of these products, adults are more likely to use them for a longer period of time than are teens - the Apple iPod and another brand of MP3 player are used for one to four hours more often by adults than by teens. Perhaps time spent commuting to work daily accounts for using these products for longer periods of time. Nearly equal percentages of adults and students use their Apple iPod with the volume turned loud, while among users of other brands of MP3 players, students are significantly more likely than adults to have the volume turned loud.
Teens are more likely than adults to use the other products for longer periods and at higher volumes. Among teens, boys are more likely than girls to use these products in ways that may cause hearing loss later in life, by listening for longer periods and at higher volumes. Despite the normal loss of hearing that occurs with age, older adults are more likely to report using these products at lower volumes than younger adults and teens.
Equal percentages of adults (48%) and teens (47%) say they are not concerned about hearing loss from use of these products, while teens (53%) are much more likely than adults (33%) to say they are concerned. Despite this concern, more than half (58%) of teens say they are not likely to cut down on the time they use these devices and 31% are not likely to turn down the volume. Even more teens (64%) say they are not likely to purchase specially designed earphones to prevent hearing loss. Just under half (48%) of adults say they are unlikely to cut down on usage. Both teens (69%) and adults (50%) are more likely to turn down the volume in an effort to prevent hearing loss than any of the other measures.
While a majority of parents (59%) are concerned about hearing loss in their children because of the use of these devices, less than half are willing to limit the amount of time their children use these devices. Most parents (80%) would make their children lower the volume, but how effective this is when the children are away from parental influence is questionable. More than half of parents say they have spoken to their children about the possibility of hearing loss, and just 12% have steered their children toward websites or literature discussing the dangers.
Finally, both adults (32%) and teens (43%) say that the best way to reach teens about the dangers of hearing loss is television. Unfortunately for parents, a majority of whom say they would speak with their teens about hearing loss as a measure of prevention, just 10% of teens say hearing about this issue from family or friends is effective. More teens say hearing about hearing loss in school (15%) or reading it in teen magazines (11%) is a good way to reach them. For boys, television is by far the best way to reach them (50% compared to 36% for girls), while girls are six times as likely as boys to say teen magazines are a good venue of this information.