Hearing Damage in Teens?

Daily Health Solutions, Featured Article, Healthy Living
on May 1, 2014
hearing damage from earbuds

Q: My teen seems to have her earbuds permanently attached to her ears. Should I worry she’s damaging her hearing?

A: Yes. Twelve to 15 percent of teenagers have hearing loss to some degree—and may not notice it until they’re older. Fortunately, this is 100 percent preventable. With a little effort, you can help keep her hearing intact. My advice:

Switch to headphones. Over-the-ear headphones encase the ear and are often better at canceling outside noise than earbuds, allowing for good sound quality at lower levels.

Consider volume-limiting versions. These restrict sound output to 85dBs or less. Most audio devices on the market allow outputs to go much further than 85dBs, and younger listeners don’t realize the long-term damaging effects.

Make an investment. You may have to spend more, but premium headphones or earbuds provide a higher fidelity sound so you don’t have to pump up the volume to enhance your listening experience.

Limit length and loudness. A balance between volume level and length of listening is key. Eighty percent volume for a maximum of 90 minutes is the general rule of thumb. If you are listening longer than that, turn it down—the longer you listen, the lower the volume should be.

—SHARON A. SANDRIDGE, PHD, director of clinical services in audiology at Cleveland Clinic 

Q: Is it true you can take a pill to prevent concussions?

A: If it were only that easy. Problem is, no scientific evidence supports the claim that any dietary supplement is effective in the treatment or prevention of concussion. Companies that market such supplements are merely exploiting the rising awareness and concern about traumatic brain injuries, and the FDA recently warned against using them. It’s especially dangerous for supplement makers to claim they can help a concussion heal faster, because that promise could prompt an injured athlete to resume activities prematurely. 

Once you have a concussion, your risk of having another is three to five times greater, and a second concussion that occurs before the brain has recovered can slow permanent recovery and increase the chances for long-lasting problems like headaches, memory loss and even disability or death. After a concussion, it’s imperative to allow the brain time to heal and return to its normal or near-normal state. That can take days or weeks, and may require therapies for headaches or dizziness.

—ANDREW RUSSMAN, DO, vascular neurologist and traumatic brain injury specialist at Cleveland Clinic’s Cerebrovascular Center

Q: Will eating too much soy raise my risk of breast cancer?

A: Don’t demonize tofu yet: Soy in its natural form does not rank high on the list of contributing factors for breast cancer. Soy products contain isoflavones, molecules that are similar to the hormone estrogen. This similarity has led to some theoretical concerns that soy could increase the risk of estrogen-sensitive cancers, including breast cancer.

But isoflavones are not identical to estrogen, and the difference maters. When consumed, these compounds break down in your intestinal system into other molecules that are similar in structure to estrogen, but don’t bind as well to the estrogen receptor. Other possible risk factors for breast cancer—obesity, smoking at an early age, a sedentary lifestyle, or saturated fat intake and genetics—are bigger concerns than consuming plant estrogens. Still, when choosing soy-based products, go natural: Plant-based sources such as soy milk, tofu and edamame are all good choices.

—ALBERTO MONTERO, MD, staff physician at Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute

Cleveland Clinic, home to 120 medical specialties and subspecialties, is consistently named one of the nation’s best hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. Visit them online at health.clevelandclinic.org.

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