Earbuds, those portable little speakers that come standard with most smartphones these days, are causing hearing damage at an alarming rate. In fact, recent studies have show 1-in-5 American teenagers is already suffering from hearing loss because of the deafening decibels.
Dr. Robert Herring has been treating patients in the Brazos Valley for more than a decade. As an audiologist, when it's comes to hearing problems, he's seen it all. But what he's been seeing recently is causing some concern.
Dr. Herring says, "Every generation has it's noise problems, and this generation's is earbuds."
Thanks to the increasing popularity of earbuds, he's seeing kids as young as 16 start showing signs of hearing loss. It's not necessarily surprising because they're everywhere.
In just 10 minutes on Texas A&M's campus, we spotted more than two dozen students wearing the tiny speakers. Many told us they're hardly ever without them. That's exactly the type of behavior that's causing the problem.
Dr. Herring says, "Specifically if you wear them too often and too long at too high a volume."
So how loud is too loud? Dr. Herring says the answer is simple.
"If the person next to you can hear it, it's too loud."
He recommends not listening to anything over 85 decibels. That's about the same as standing on the side of the road and listening to a car drive past. Listening to music that loud once won't do much harm, but it's when you do it over and over again you start getting into trouble."
Dr. Herring says, "I always talk to my patients about walking over grass. if you walk over the grass once, the blades will bend but they'll come back up. if you keep walking over that same grass over and over again, they'll never come back up and you'll have a path that's dead. and that's the same concept in the ear."
Once you've damaged your hearing, it's damaged for life.There's no getting it back without the help of hearing aids. Any damage you do while you're young will only get worse as you get older.
"The problem is what happens later in life. this catches up to you."
That's a message Dr. Herring works hard to instill in his youngest patients and he hopes they hear him loud and clear, before it's too late and they're unable to.
Besides physically turning the volume down every time you listen to music, there are several things you can do. They make children's headphones that have a volume limit and on most apple products, you can set a maximum output.