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OHSU Is National Leader In Childhood Hearing Loss Prevention Education Programs

   Portland, Ore.

Researchers co-host first-ever conference featuring hearing experts from around the world

Hearing experts from around the globe will gather in Cincinnati this week to examine and discuss issues surrounding noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in children and adolescents. Noise-induced hearing loss in youth has become a national epidemic, with some 5.2 million 6- to 19-year-olds suffering hearing loss directly related to noise exposure.

The first-ever conference on NIHL in children and adolescents is being coordinated by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University Oregon Hearing Research Center in collaboration with the Marion Down’s National Center for Infant Hearing.

“In spite of mounting evidence, the prevalence of noise-induced hearing loss is increasing among children and adolescents. And contrary to the recommendations of countless experts in the field, basic hearing loss prevention information remains conspicuously absent from school curricula,” said Robert Folmer, Ph.D., associate professor of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery, OHSU School of Medicine, and clinical neurophysiologist, OHSU Tinnitus Clinic, OHSU Oregon Hearing Research Center..
“I am happy to see that some national attention is being focused on the preventability of noise-induced hearing loss. I hope the conference helps to raise awareness about this problem and encourages policy-makers to mandate hearing loss prevention education in all of our nation's schools on a continuing basis.”

An international panel of hearing experts will share their expertise and knowledge on the underlying mechanism of noise-induced hearing loss in children versus adults; early hearing loss prevention, education and intervention - changing knowledge attitudes and behaviors of children and young adults; and resources, programs and research agendas needed to successfully prevent NIHL in children and adolescents at work and at play.

OHSU researchers also will present data on the comprehensive education program they designed that covers the causes and prevention of noise-induced hearing loss. The program, Dangerous Decibels, includes permanent exhibits at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, classroom instruction and teacher training. Based on their research, the investigators say this program is most influential and beneficial when taught in elementary school.

William Martin, Ph.D., professor of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery, OHSU School of Medicine, and multi-program director of the OHSU Tinnitus Clinic, OHSU Oregon Hearing Research Center believes the best way to educate students and change behaviors is to start early.

"If you wait until seventh to ninth grade, it's too late,” said Martin who regularly visits elementary school classrooms where he delivers the Dangerous Decibels lessons that impresses upon young students how their hearing can be damaged. "It's about changing knowledge, attitudes and behavior and young people to make good decisions.”

The conference is funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and  jointly sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders, the National Hearing Conservation Association, the Marion Down’s Hearing Center, Oregon Health & Science University and the University of Northern Colorado by the National Hearing Conservation Association. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

For more information about hearing loss and tinnitus prevention, visit the Dangerous Decibels Web site, For more information about the loudness of common sounds, visit


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