Nicole Ostrow
August 18, 2010

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Hearing loss among U.S. adolescents has surged, probably because of the use of devices such as earbuds for listening to music, doctors say.

Researchers surveyed a sample of children ages 12 to 19 in 2005 and 2006 and found that 19.5 percent had some hearing loss, compared with 14.9 percent in a study covering the years 1988 to 1994, according to a report published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Hearing loss of 25 decibels or more — enough that the children were often aware of the deficit — increased to 5.3 percent of the sample, from 3.5 percent in the earlier group.

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Listening to loud sounds through earbuds — the tiny electronic speakers that fit into ears, for use with personal music players — is probably the main reason that more adolescents are losing some of their hearing, said William Slattery, director of clinical studies at the House Ear Institute, a Los Angeles medical practice, who wasn’t involved in today’s study.

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