Teenage Tinnitus: Not-So-Silent Endemic

Ten percent of Aliso teens have frequent or constant tinnitus, while three in 10 students have suffered from ear-ringing as loud or louder than conversation level.

 The Facts:

  • 65 percent of Aliso students hear some form of tinnitus, ranging from rarely to constantly.
  • 2.3 percent of Aliso students have partial deafness or some form of diagnosed hearing problem.


 F sharp—thousands of octaves high. That is the ringing noise that greets me every morning, loud as a pleasant conversation, shrilly screaming F sharp until the moment I go to sleep.  It never leaves, never lessens, from hammering into my ears during the silence of test time to interrupting the silent awe of watching a sunset. F sharp never leaves me alone.

That, my friends, is tinnitus.

You have probably experienced it before. If you have ever attended a loud concert, heard a gunshot, listened to a close scream or explosion–you might suddenly hear for a few moments that obnoxious ringing. 

In fact, when everything is dead quiet, perhaps when you are lying in bed listening to the clock tick, you may hear a faint, far-off buzzing. 

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (a branch of the National Institute of Health), “Tinnitus is commonly described as a ringing in the ears, but it also can sound like roaring, clicking, hissing or buzzing.”  The NIDCD also stated that 22.7 million Americans, or about 10 percent of the American population, experiences long-term tinnitus.

In comparison, an estimated 65 percent of Aliso Niguel students hear the ringing, ranging from constantly (4.6 percent) to rarely (29.2 percent), as loud as ear-piercing screaming (3.8 percent) to a buzz soft as whispering (36.2 percent).  These numbers are based off of clustered random samples taken of 130 students during the tutorial period.

“Considering the heavy influence of technology on today's youth, I see the problem stemming from the loud volumes at which kids are listening to music,” senior O’Neil Van Horn said. “Today, kids are irresponsible with the volume at which they listen to music through headphones, causing irreversible damage to hearing."

No worries about a teenage deafness epidemic though—a little bit of ringing in the ears now and then is normal. It only becomes a problem when the ringing is frequent.

Approximately 10 percent of students at Aliso face frequent to constant tinnitus, ranging from “loud as conversations” levels to “loud as shouting,” which seems to be relatively in line with the national proportion of tinnitus-inflicted adults.

Interestingly enough, the worst cases of tinnitus and partial deafness in Aliso Niguel are not caused by the stereotypical cause of blaring loud music with their headphones.  In fact, the 2.3 percent of Aliso Niguel students surveyed who were diagnosed as partially deaf by a doctor seem to have acquired their partial deafness and extreme tinnitus from other activities: boxing, swimming, scuba-diving and shooting. 

As for myself, I have acquired tinnitus by the most mundane way. After “forgetting” to use ear protection at a few practices and shows, I have developed tinnitus while drumming, while listening loudly to my Zune (yes, Microsoft product, not Apple) helped the ringing become constant.

Most students use headphones (90.8 percent, while 21.6 percent of students admit to listening to music loud enough that others around them can clearly hear–not exactly a healthy habit. Along with the fact that a majority of students (54 percent) do not worry about loud music as a problem, it seems almost ironic that the students with the worst cases of tinnitus seem to have no relation to loud headphone users. 

Sophomore Joel Hench disagrees, stating, “I heard from somewhere one in five teenagers has ear-ringing. That number was much lower back before ear buds and iPods.”

Quite possibly the effects of loud music will set in during the later years of the iPod generation; for now, only time will tell.

Rich B April 30, 2011 at 03:44 PM
I am a middle aged adult and I believe mine happened as a result of caffeine and stress.it came on while at work sitting at my desk. That was 30 years ago.
Sarinne Fox May 01, 2011 at 06:48 AM
Boxing can cause tinnitus? Is there a link where I can read more about that? Thanks!


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