August 17, 2010
Rising Teen Hearing Loss

What obvious change is causing more teen ear damage?

Researchers compared hearing loss evaluated in two national surveys, one conducted in 1988-1994 and the other in 2005-2006. ''In the initial assessment back in the early '90's, about 15% [of teens] had any hearing loss," says researcher Gary C. Curhan MD, ScD, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health.

''More recently, it was 19%," he says.

What's the correct transhumanistic conclusion to draw from this report? Regular readers, what am I thinking right now? This is a problem, yes. But how should it be solved? Reduced teen blasting of their ears in the short term would be a good idea (and good luck with convincing them). But what does this report point out the need for?

Correct answer: We need biotechnology that either repairs the damage caused by listening to loud music or that protects the ears from damage.

The bummer here is that listening to, say, Dark Side Of The Moon or Exile On Main St. is best done with plenty of volume. Even Capprichio Espagnol and Scheherazade sound better loud. Or how about Jeff Beck's Freeway Jam: loud. I could go on. Great music and medical research reports like the one above are all the evidence I need to decide that we've got to reengineer and repair our bodies to make us better able to partake in life's great pleasures.

Is loud music from speakers better than loud music from headphones?

A recent Australian study, however, found a 70% increased risk of hearing loss associated with the use of headphones to listen to portable music, and many experts suspect they are the primary cause of hearing loss in teens.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 August 17 08:57 PM  Aging Hearing

Underachiever said at August 17, 2010 11:05 PM:

It occurred to me that good music and beautiful computer images (the fractals here for instance) have specific mathematical patterns in them (e.g. golden ratio, harmony, melody). Furthermore, I would be willing to bet that fMRI can detect when someone is looking at or listening to something beautiful. Therefore, it is theoretically possible to hook someone up to an fMRI with a video monitor and headphones and play them visual and auditory stimuli which is increasingly beautiful to them (up to a point). The computer program could determine if the person likes how the music and/or video have changed. This could be increased by having the music and the auditory sequences have themes in common (like the beauty in dance when movements correspond to the beat). This program could be trained by showing people specific drawings or listen to certain songs and asking them which ones are their favorites to determine what structures that person specifically likes, and the blood flow which corresponds to them.

PacRim Jim said at August 18, 2010 12:14 AM:

Apropos Rimsky-Korsakov's Cappricio Espagnol, during its first rehearsal under the composer's baton, the musicians were so thrilled with the music that they stood up and applauded R-K. Must have been a wonderful moment.

Sigivald said at August 18, 2010 1:05 PM:

Good music has "specific mathematical patterns"?

Yeah, no.

Constitution First said at August 18, 2010 1:28 PM:

After forty years of concerts and high-end stereo equipment, now 53-years-old with great case Tinnitus, I can only re-iterate the warning I got, but paid no mind: hearing loss is permanent, and it's no joke.

I own many tens' of thousands of dollars in audio reproduction equipment and recordings that are all-but-useless to me now.

It doesn't matter what you listen to, it absolutely matters, how loud. If you have to shout over the music, it's too loud.

You listen long enough and loud enough, guaranteed you won't be hearing anything except constant ringing, day & night, and saying "what?" a lot.

You simply can no longer enjoy music or even follow a conversation in a crowed space like a bar, because suffering from Tinnitus, the ringing rises to match the level of whatever is playing/saying.

It really is quite miserable, especially ironic for someone who used to have "golden ears". Who says "God doesn't have a sense of humor?"

If nothing else, may my suffering serve as a warning to others, or play it loud, at your peril.

BW said at August 18, 2010 2:47 PM:

What? Can you repeat that?

Randall Parker said at August 18, 2010 9:51 PM:

PacRim Jim,

Great story.

R-K wrote back to another composer (Tchaikowsky I think but I can't remember clearly) protesting the praise for the piece's orchestration. He said a well composed piece didn't need orchestration and he felt every note really belonged in it. I can't find the letter he wrote. But the disc jockey at the classical radio station KUSC said this happened.

Constitution First,

Tragic. Well, you need cell therapies and gene therapies to restore your hearing. I'll keep an eye out for ear rejuv research.

Lono said at August 19, 2010 9:56 AM:


While we definitely need hearing restoration technologies - I thought it was already well understood that ear buds and modern concerts were the cause of much of this increased damage.

I took a severe hit to my hearing when Ministry (in protest to a local noise ordinance) turned up their volume to 11 on my local leg of their Lollapaloza tour.

(I was young, drunk, and very close to the stage/speakers at the time)

Since then I always use only over the ear headphones and take noise reducing ear plugs to every concert I attend.

I also - in daily life - try to lower the volume to one step right below what I am naturally comfortable with and my brain almost always adjusts to pick up the sound normally.

I have actually got into fairly animated fights with sound board operators over how loud they put the sound up in the smaller venues - but they are so deaf at that point they rarely can accept the truth of it!

Brett Bellmore said at August 19, 2010 2:55 PM:

I've still got most of my hearing, I suppose because as a teen I'd always walk out of the concert when my teeth started vibrating. Of course, if they really want to do something about hearing loss, how about repealing 'silencer' regulations? "Silencers" don't "silence" guns, they just reduce the noise level to the point where it doesn't cause acute hearing damage.

nick said at August 20, 2010 12:39 AM:

Someone should investigate brain injury in headbangers.

Sione said at August 21, 2010 10:25 PM:

Constitution First

Sorry to read about that. I was warned about loud "music" when I was younger. Luckily I never had too much exposure to concert level noise. Still, I got some ringing as the result of an aircraft incident a few years back. My brother-in-law wasn't so lucky. A few weeks after that he walked into a venue for a few beers. A live band struck up and in seconds he had severe pain and what he later described as screaming in his left ear. He went to a doctor the next day with the screaming noise still in his head. The doctor (a typical NHS dufus) told him to come back in a week if it hadn't "gone away." He later found out that had he been treated within the first 6 - 8 hours with a specialist anti-inflamatory agent he'd likely have been better off with less hearing damage overall. As it is now he has constant ringing in his head on one side & can't hear much on that side at all. Two lessons from this. Stay away from loud noise. Stay away from the incompetence of socialised medicine.


AB said at August 25, 2010 11:13 PM:

Sione: Incompetence is not specific to socialized medicine. I suffer from Stanford University think they are special/god delusion incompetence. I am now my own health care provider and much better off for it.

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Shelly Slader said at July 21, 2014 3:26 PM:

My husband works as an Audiologist so he deals with hearing loss all the time. He has seen an increased number of teenagers over the years. It would be great if there was some sort of technology in the future to stop or decrease hearing loss. For now, we'll have to keep relying on hearing aids and such.
Shelly Slader |

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