Original Investigation |

Parental Perspectives on Adolescent Hearing Loss Risk and Prevention

Deepa L. Sekhar, MD, MSc1; Sarah J. Clark, MPH2,3; Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP2,3; Dianne C. Singer, MPH2,3; Ian M. Paul, MD, Msc1,4
[+] Author Affiliations
1Department of Pediatrics, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania
2Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor
3Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
4Public Health Sciences, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014;140(1):22-28. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2013.5760.
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Importance  Data indicate that 1 in 6 adolescents has high-frequency hearing loss, which is typically noise related and preventable. Parental participation improves the success of adolescent behavioral interventions, yet little is known about parental perspectives regarding adolescent noise-induced hearing loss.

Objective  To perform a survey to determine parental knowledge of adolescent hearing loss and willingness to promote hearing conservation to discern information that is critical to design adolescent hearing loss prevention programs.

Design, Setting, and Participants  A cross-sectional, Internet-based survey of a nationally representative online sample of parents of 13- to 17-year-olds.

Interventions  A survey conducted with the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, a recurring online survey.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Parental knowledge of adolescent hearing loss and willingness to promote hearing conservation.

Results  Of 716 eligible respondents, 96.3% of parents reported that their adolescent was slightly or not at all at risk of hearing problems from excessive noise, and 69.0% had not spoken with their adolescent about noise exposure, mainly because of the perceived low risk. Nonetheless, to protect their adolescents’ hearing, more than 65.0% of parents are either willing or very willing to consider limiting time listening to music, limiting access to excessively noisy situations, or insisting on the use of hearing protection (earplugs or earmuffs). Higher parental education increased the odds of promoting hearing-protective strategies. Parents were less likely to insist on hearing protection for older adolescents. Parents who understood that both volume and time of exposure affect hearing damage were more likely to have discussed hearing loss with their adolescent (odds ratio [OR], 1.98; 95% CI, 1.29-3.03). The odds of discussing hearing loss were also increased for those who were willing or very willing to limit time listening to music (OR, 1.88; 95% CI, 1.19-2.26) and to insist on hearing protection (OR, 1.92; 95% CI, 1.15-3.18) compared with parents who were very unwilling, unwilling, or neutral.

Conclusions and Relevance  Despite the rising prevalence of acquired adolescent hearing loss, few parents believe their adolescent is at risk. Those with higher education are more willing to promote hearing conservation, especially with younger adolescents. To create effective hearing conservation programs, parents need better education on this subject as well as effective and acceptable strategies to prevent adolescent noise exposure.

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