PhotoThe stigma of young people listening to loud music is one that stretches back for decades, but new research shows that it may be contributing to serious hearing problems.

Canadian researcher Larry Roberts says that young people who listen to loud music are increasingly being affected by tinnitus, a condition signified by a constant ringing in the ears. The development of tinnitus signifies the potential for permanent hearing damage.

“It’s a growing problem and I think it’s going to get worse. My personal view is that there is a major public health challenge coming down the road in terms of difficulties with hearing,” he said.

Serious health risk

Roberts and his fellow researchers came to this conclusion after conducting a study utilizing 170 students between the ages of 11 and 17. They found that nearly all of the participants engaged in some sort of risky listening habit – whether it was listening to loud music at parties or events or on some sort of personal device.

Additionally, they found more than 25% of participants were already experiencing symptoms of tinnitus. Participants reported hearing a constant ringing or buzzing sound in their daily life, a condition that usually doesn’t affect someone under the age of 50.

The researchers noted that having symptoms of tinnitus did not affect how well participants could hear; although this select group of students displayed symptoms of tinnitus, they were able to hear just as well as their peers. However, this same group was found to have a reduced tolerance for loud noises, a sign that Roberts says is indicative of hidden permanent hearing damage.

Changing habits

Roberts and his fellow researchers are confident that their research is able to provide a glimpse into what they consider to be a growing health problem for young people.

Although prolonged exposure to loud music or noises can cause constant tinnitus, experiencing it for short stretches should act as a warning sign, he says. For example, young people who experience symptoms of tinnitus for a day or so after listening to loud music should be cautious about their listening habits moving forward.

The full study has been published in the journal Scientific Reports

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