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Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

Hearing loss used to be thought of as an aging problem. But that's changed. There are 5.2 million children and teens, and 26 million young and middle aged adults, with permanent hearing loss, and it's all because of lifestyle.

Local audiologists say it's time to do something about it. It's a normal these days to see young people working or exercising with ear buds. And because it's loud outside, the music gets jacked up in their ears.

'The sad thing that we've learned, is in health curriculums, students are not educated about the dangers of hearing loss. So a lot of kids do not know that they once they are exposed and lose their hearing, it's gone. They can't repair that,' said Dr. Annette Hurley, Assistant Professor of Audiology at LSU Health Sciences Center.

Hearing experts at LSU Health Sciences center studied the high noise levels in the French Quarter. They were not in violation of ordinances. But they found that free or inexpensive smart phone apps work as well at measuring noise levels, as expensive professional equipment that can cost $12,000. Apps can even alert you when noise is too loud.

It's important because children and teens now have a higher rate of hearing loss for their age, than the older generation.

'Children's toys now a days are nosier. Children are more likely to be exposed to loud levels of noise and especially in the high school and middle school population. More of them have cell phones. More of them have iPods now and there's not really any limits to the volume level,' said Greg Kettelhake, an LSUHSC Audiology Doctoral Student.

There are devices now that can lower your iPod's or smart phone's volume. And parents can use a tamper-proof code to limit volume in children's phones.

Often times only children have their hearing tested because it's so important for reading and language development. But a lot of times, once we get out of grade school, few adults come to have their hearing tested to see exactly where they stand.

'People who work in a loud noise, or if you're in a bar, quite often with a lot of noise, your stress levels are higher. Your blood pressure tends to be higher, more muscle tension,' said Dr. Laurie Hebert, in the LSUHSC Audiology Department. 'Workers who work in high noise environments are known to be more irritable when they go home at night.'

For a list of some of the noise level apps recommended by the audiologists, here are two sites: http://www.healthyhearing.com/content/articles/Hearing-loss/Protection/47805-The-best-phone-apps-to-measure-noise-levels | http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/107286-apps-to-protect-your-ears

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