First it was smoking. Then it was sugary drinks. Now, New York City officials are taking aim at too-loud music.
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The City of New York wants teens to listen up to its new campaign and turn down the volume on their headphones.
Data shows adolescents are increasingly experiencing hearing loss and exposure to loud sound is the culprit, thanks to increasing use of headphones attached to smartphones, tablets and portable music players. Overall, hearing loss increased more than 30% between 1988 and 2006, according to data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
This latest campaign comes just one year after New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg drew heavy criticism over his push to ban the sale of large sugary drinks.
“The Health Department is aiming to better inform and educate New Yorkers about ways to protect hearing from exposure to loud sounds. With public and private support, a public education campaign is being developed to raise awareness about safe use of personal music players and risks of loud and long listening,” a spokesperson for NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said in an email statement.
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene says the project is in the very early stages of development and the final cost and scope of the campaign is not yet known. The Associated Press, however, is reporting the campaign will cost $250,000 and will rely heavily on social media marketing.
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The issue at hand is important and underappreciated, according to Dr. Sophie J. Balk., attending pediatrician at The Children's Hospital at Montefiore.
She says for developing children and adolescents, the impact of hearing loss is far-reaching.
“When hearing is affected in school, that can impact your performance. There are also impacts on your blood pressure and sleep—it’s a stress response, so there are numbers of health effects.”
Experts aren’t sure what’s behind kids’ need to turn up the volume on headphones. “I don’t know exactly why everyone is doing it—they may just think it’s cool,” she says. “But parents are also important in this issue. They need to be educated, and talking to their kids about not playing music so loudly.”
But just because the city rolls out a pricey campaign doesn’t mean the public will welcome the advice with open arms. Balk likens it to smoking public service announcements and says it may take time for children and adults to realize the risks that come along with such loud tunes.
“The culture will change,” she says.