LOUD AND CLEAR: Audiologist Janine Leslie puts Malachi Stebbing, 10, of Ballina, through the rigours of  a free hearing check.
LOUD AND CLEAR: Audiologist Janine Leslie puts Malachi Stebbing, 10, of Ballina, through the rigours of a free hearing check. Jacklyn Wagner

Study echoes sound warning

WHEN 10-year-old Malachi Stebbing's iPod can be heard blaring, his mother Belinda Lange confiscates it to the top of the fridge - through fear for his road safety as much as his hearing.

Research released by NRMA Insurance last week about the dangers of walking with gadgets justifies his mother's concerns.

The NRMA study found 52 per cent of NSW residents used MP3 players, including iPods, while walking or running.

Also of concern is that one-in-two residents walk and send SMS messages at the same time.

“If you're listening to an MP3 player while you are walking, you're not likely to hear what's happening around you,” NRMA Insurance spokesperson Emily Gatt said.

“This means you can miss warning noises like car horns and emergency sirens.”

Blaring iPods and MP3 players are also of major concern for Janine Leslie, audiologist at Bay Audio in Lismore.

“We use our hearing to avoid danger in our environment all the time,” Ms Leslie said.

“We can't hear those dangers if there is a loud alternative signal in our ear.”

The Lismore audiologist was aware of a 'very worrying' trend of hearing problems among her young clients.

“I'm finding teenagers with ears that are much older,” she said.

The damage from high recreational noise levels, while not immediate, is cumulative and irreversible.

“Hearing health professionals have discovered early signs of hearing loss at the range most readily damaged by loud sounds,” North Coast Area Health audiometrist at the Child and Family Health Centre, Jan Wright, said.

“Almost one-in-five adolescents are suffering hearing problems including tinnitus due to excessively loud noise.”



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