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Keep tabs on that volume level

February 21, 2012
Times Leader

By SHELLEY HANSON, For The Times Leader

WHEELING - Sometimes teenagers don't realize their music is too loud or if they've logged too many hours playing video games - at least not until they have developed a problem.

Given that, we asked "What impact could the pervasive use of technology among youth have on their future health?"

A negative one, if not monitored, experts say. This is why it is up to parents to do their job and keep tabs on how much technology time their children have.

Dr. Judy Romano, director of Wheeling Hospital's Center for Pediatrics, said she has treated some children who have gone overboard with their electronic devices, especially video games.

''We do see some children with tendinitis of digits from overzealous, repetitive movement,'' Romano said.

The tendinitis occurs in the fingers or thumbs, wrists or elbows, she said. And what's the cure? Cut back on the activity causing the problems.

''We recommend children have no more than two hours of screen time, including video games and TV, daily,'' she said.

''It's time not spent moving and being healthy.''

In terms of hearing, Brandon Lichtman, an audiologist at Wheeling Hospital, said most of the young patients he's treated locally developed problems after using a firearm while hunting. The children were not using the proper hearing protection in their ears.

When it comes to music, teens and adults tend to keep turning it up because as the day wears on, a person's auditory system becomes fatigued, he said.

''As your auditory system gets tired, the louder you need it,'' Lichtman said, noting this is when damage can occur.

People who listen to music while exercising also feel the need to play their music too loud because the blood flow naturally decreases around the cochlea, making it more difficult to hear.

Lichtman said if a parent can hear their child's music while the child is using ear buds, the volume needs turned down. Some ear bud systems and media devices can be locked to increase only to a certain level. He noted sound is measured in decibels. If someone is exposed to a noise or sound at 105 decibels during the course of an hour, that level can cause permanent hearing damage, Lichtman said.

Other activities and their average decibel levels include: motorcycle, 90 decibels; dance club, 110; rock concert, 120; and a gunshot blast, 140. Lichtman said if a parent is concerned their child might have hearing damage, they should have it tested. If there are no problems, they will at least have a baseline for comparison in the future.

''Twelve percent of all children ages 16-19 have noise-induced hearing loss,'' Lichtman said.

Many of the new electronic gadgets also have screens. In addition to computer screens, teens are viewing videos and photos on their phones and iPads. According to the American Optometric Association, vision-related problems caused by too much computer usage is called Computer Vision Syndrome. Symptoms include eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain.

However, the symptoms can be caused by one or a combination of the following: poor lighting in a room; glare on the computer screen; improper viewing distances; poor seating posture; or uncorrected vision problems.

According to the association, those most at risk for developing the syndrome are people who use a computer for two or more continuous hours daily.



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