American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Survey of U.S. Hispanic Adults, Adults in General, Hispanic Teens, and Teens in General About the Use of Personal Electronic Devices with Headphones

Executive Summary

Because of an elevated and potentially more risky use of personal audio technology, Hispanic adults appear to be more at risk for hearing loss and may already be experiencing hearing problems at a higher rate than adults, Hispanic teens, and teens in general.

Even though Hispanic adults in many cases are less likely to use personal electronic devices (they are less likely than adults overall to use cell phones, Walkman/portable CD players, and portable television/DVD players) they use these products less safely than adults in general. In addition, they are more likely than adults in general to use iPods and MP3 players, which are generally used with earphones.

Teens overall tend to use the cell phone at higher rates that the other groups, however, very few use cell phones with earphones, thereby eliminating some of the risk to hearing involved in using cell phones.

Looking at the typical length of use for each of the electronic devices tested, Hispanic adults are nearly always more likely to use these devices for longer periods of time and they are in every case except for cell phones, more likely than adults overall to have the volume turned loud. For many of the devices, nearly half of Hispanic adults use them for one hour or more during a typical session. Teens in general are more likely than adults in general to use most of these products for longer periods of time and at higher volume.

Hispanic teens, when comparing their use of iPods and other MP3 players with teens in general, use these devices for longer periods and at higher volume. Among Hispanic teens, boys are more likely to use iPods for longer periods than girls and at higher volumes, but for other MP3 players, the reverse is true - Hispanic girls are more likely than boys to listen for longer periods at higher volume.

In addition to playing most of these personal devices louder than adults in general, Hispanic adults are slightly less likely to have purchased specially-designed earphones for use with these electronic devices. While both Hispanic teens and teens in general tend to play their electronic devices at higher volume, they are also slightly more likely than adults, both Hispanic and in general, to have purchased specially-designed earphones to lessen the risk of hearing loss.

Hispanic adults are more likely than adults in general to say they are concerned about hearing loss (67% vs. 58% all adults) and they are more concerned than all adults with hearing loss due to the use of earphones (49% vs. 33% adults). They are also much more likely than adults overall to be concerned about hearing loss in their children (77% vs.59%). In keeping with their deeper concern about hearing loss, they are more likely than adults in general to say they are likely to turn down the volume, to cut down on the length of time they listen, and to purchase specially-designed earphones.

Equal percentages of adults in general and teens in general (48% each) say they are not concerned about hearing loss from use of these products, while teens in general (52%) are much more likely than adults (33%) to say they are concerned. Hispanic adults (49%) and Hispanic teens (58%) are much more likely than adults and teens overall to express concern about hearing loss.

Despite this concern, more than half (58%) of teens in general and 44% of Hispanic teens say they are not likely to cut down on the time they use these devices and three in ten of both sets of teens are not likely to turn down the volume. A majority of both Hispanic and all teens say they are not likely to purchase specially designed earphones to prevent hearing loss.

It is disturbing that just half of teens overall (49%) and Hispanic teens (51%) say they have experienced none of the symptoms that can be associated with hearing loss, compared to 63% of adults overall and 53% of Hispanic adults who say this. And perhaps more disturbing is that Hispanic teens (19%) and teens in general (17%) are more likely than their adult counterparts to have experienced tinnitus.

Television appears to be the best way to reach both Hispanic adults and their children. Half say television is the best way to reach children with a message about the risk of hearing loss, compared to one in three adults in general who feel this way. When asking Hispanics which Spanish media they watch, more than half say Spanish-language television programs and finally, when asking what is the most effective means of reaching them, 57% say English-language television.

Finally, for all four groups, television is the best way to reach children, teens, and young adults about the possible risk of hearing loss associated with using these devices. Hispanic adults and teens in particular (50% each) say television is the best way to go. For all adults, disseminating the information through family and friends is nearly as effective as through television (29% and 32%, respectively). Teen magazines could play a role in informing teens as they were more than twice as likely as adults to say this was a good way to contact them, especially the girls in both teen groups.

Clearly there is an interest and a need for outreach to teens in general and to both teens and adults in the Hispanic community on this issue. These three groups are more likely than adults in general to engage in risky behavior regarding their hearing. This, of course does not mean there is not a problem among all adults. All four groups indicate some level of risky behavior and a concern about hearing loss, but less willingness to engage in behaviors that cut the risk like turning down the volume or purchasing specially-designed earphones. Television is clearly the media to use to reach the greatest number of people and using English-language media, especially television, to reach Hispanics of all ages could be beneficial.

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