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MTV Survey Warns Of Loud Music's Impact on Hearing

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Children and adults at risk of permanent hearing loss due to repeated exposure to loud music would turn down the sound or use ear protection if told to do so by a health care professional, a new Vanderbilt study performed in conjunction with MTV.com shows. The study "Intentional Exposure to Loud Music: The 2nd MTV.com Survey Reveals an Opportunity to Educate," from Vanderbilt's Roland Eavey, M.D., is being released today in the "Journal of Pediatrics".

Eavey conducted the research in 2007 while working at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary at Harvard; it is a follow-up to his groundbreaking 2002 MTV survey. "Hearing loss is so prevalent that it has become the norm," said Eavey, director of the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center and chair of the Department of Otolaryngology.

"We know where we are headed; it would be a miracle if we don't wind up with problems later on. Studies show that 90 percent of males age 60 and over now have hearing loss." Nearly half of 2,500 MTV.com respondents experienced symptoms such as tinnitus or hearing loss after loud music exposure and hearing loss was considered a problem by 32 percent of respondents.

Eavey's study found the media as the most informative source about prevention of potential hearing loss and the health care community as the least likely source, even though respondents said they would change behavior if a health care professional alerted them to the problem. "Since our last study we have learned that enough people still are not yet aware, but that more are becoming aware, especially through the help of the media," Eavey said.

"We have learned that the audience does use public health behaviors like sunscreen, designated drivers and seatbelts and that the health care community is the least likely source of informing patients about hearing loss, so we have an excellent opportunity to start educating patients."

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As a health care provider, Eavey suggests alerting patients that "hearing loss from excessive sound volume is preventable ... and once it happens, the loss is permanent and cannot be reversed. Even hearing aids might not help that type of hearing loss and the ringing of the ears that can occur."

Seventy-five percent of respondents owned an MP3 player, with 24 percent listening to their music player for more than 15 hours a week. Nearly half of the respondents said they use their player at 75 percent to 100 percent of its maximum volume capacity, which exceeds government regulations for occupational sound levels.

If external sounds such as subway noise or street traffic compete with the music, then the volume is turned up even higher, according to 89 percent of persons surveyed.

"It is kind of like the bus is heading down towards the brick wall and you can see that the crash is going to come. Do you need to show that the bus crashed into the wall before you can report this? You either have to move the bus or push that wall way back. So that's what we are trying to do," Eavey said.

"We are starting off with a baseline of people from our last study who are now getting elderly, and who didn't have MP3 players, who now have hearing loss."

Written by Jerry Jones from Vanderbilt