Local teen’s project sheds light on earbuds, hearing issues


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Viera resident and Edgewood High senior Noah Richter listens to music through over-the-ear headphones. As part of his senior project, Richter is warning fellow teens about the dangers of using earbuds.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

Noah Richter has a message for his fellow teenagers:

Be careful how loud and how long you listen to your music.

For his senior project at Edgewood Junior/Senior High School, the Viera resident is launching a campaign to coincide with National Hearing Day on March 3.

Richter’s goal is to increase awareness of hearing loss in teenagers and young adults due to listening to music using earbuds at high volume levels and for a long period of time.

Using various research sites and journals, Richter discovered that 1 in 5 teenagers in the United States (and 1 in 6 worldwide) have experienced hearing loss due to unsafe use of personal audio devices. That’s an increase of 31 percent during the past 20 years.

What’s more, there are 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults worldwide who are at risk.

“It’s one of those things you wouldn’t expect,” Richter said. “You don’t think of this as a serious problem, because most people think of hearing loss as something you don’t have to worry about until you’re 70 or 80.

“But it’s becoming a lot more prevalent now. Most people, they might be somewhat aware of it, but it doesn’t really sink in until you realize, OK, if you get this when you’re 20 or 30, you can’t ever fix it, really.

“I definitely want people to be more knowledgeable … understanding you can’t listen to music for three hours at 90 percent volume and not experience damage.”

Instead of using earbuds, you might consider over-the-ear headphones, which are generally safer because they are farther away from your inner ear. Noise canceling headphones are even better because you don’t have to turn up the volume as loud.

But that’s not all Richter is promoting.

“One of the biggest things I’ve focused on is the 60/60 rule, which is basically don’t listen to your music at no more than 60 percent volume for no more than 60 minutes,” he said.

“It’s sort of a simple way to keep down dangerous levels of music consumption, because that’s definitely something very prevalent to teenagers my age.”

In recognition of World Hearing Day, Richter has set up a website at 60sixty.info. He also has an Instagram page — @60sixty_hearing_loss with a hashtag of #60/sixtyrule — where he will encourage people to post selfies showing them following the 60/60 rule.

He also plans to distribute posters and pamphlets, possibly to local doctor’s offices and might even do some speaking engagements.

“I want the general community … at least my school and the area around there to be more aware of hearing loss as a problem,” Richter said. “I know for sure I wasn’t aware of how serious it is.”