Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Sep 13, 2010

Focus on Safety: Adolescent hearing loss on the rise


Ever think your teen employees (or your own teenagers) arent listening to you? Maybe theyre notliterally! A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that the rate of hearing loss for children between the ages of 12 and 19 jumped from 14.9 percent in 1994 to 19.5 percent in 2006. Thats a 30 percent increase (August 18, 2010).

While the study didnt look at causes, many blame technology, namely electronic, digital music playing devices (MP3 players). Just last week in Portland, a young man was struck by a train as he came too close to the tracks while wearing his headphones. Some teens also are known to nap or fall asleep with their headphones or ear buds in. Whatever the hazard, one things for sure, if its too loud for too long, its not good for you.

Tips: Many of these teens are already in the workplace, or will be soon (keep in mind the data from the study is already four years old). If you have a noisy work environment, you should already have a hearing conservation program in place. See our Legal Guide, Hearing Protection Program (4905).

Regardless of the level of noise at work, consider sharing the following advice with employees who have teens at home. First ask your teen if they ever experience ringing in their ears (a symptom of hearing loss). If you suspect your teen has hearing loss, have their hearing tested by an audiologist. Some electronic devices have an internal setting that restricts the volume of the playercheck the manual on instructions for setting the device. You can also restrict the time that your teen listens to music, thus reducing exposure time. Finally, a good rule of thumb is, if you can hear the music from the headphones or ear buds while standing next to your teen, then its probably too loud.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.