I recall, as an adolescent, playing my fair share of air-guitar to my favorite rock bands. This entailed cranking up the sound on our stereo system.

Needless to say, this pleased neither my parents nor our neighbors.

Today, the public is rarely subjected to the ear-splitting sounds of young people's music. There is, instead, the blissful silence of iPods — but has this peace and serenity come at a price?

Teens Damaging Their Ears

According to a recent article in MSNBC.com describing a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), nearly one in five teenagers (which translates into nearly 6.5 million teenagers) has experienced some degree of hearing loss.

While most of the hearing loss was described as slight, comparable to the sound of a whisper, the effects could prevent a person from hearing a drop of water hitting a surface or the sound of someone whispering goodnight.

To compound the matter, the problem has increased significantly in recent years.

Hearing Loss on the Rise

The findings are the result of a national health survey that compared hearing loss in kids between that ages of 12 and 19 during two separate time periods: between 1988 to 1994 (3000 kids) and then between 2005 to 2006 (1,800 kids).

What doctors found was that during the interval between time points, teenage hearing loss increased from about 15% to nearly 19.5%, which translates into roughly 6.5 million teenagers.

According to the researchers, people who experience this level of hearing loss can make out vowels but may have trouble distinguishing consonants. Furthermore, the diminishment in hearing may encourage teenagers to turn up the volume even more in order to compensate.

The Source of the Problem

The authors of the study do not single out any one source as the cause this problem, but they do indicate that things like iPods and MP3 players contribute to the problem.

While it is true that personal listening devices have been used for decades, today's machines are very different from the ones used in the early '80s (i.e., Walkmans).

Modern devices have greater storage capacity and longer-lasting batteries. Consequently, kids can expose their ears to longer durations of loud music. Over time, this can cause damage to the microscopic hair cells in the ears and thus compromise a person's hearing.

Use Common Sense

The authors of the study stress that this is not a call to forbid your kids from listening to their iPods (not that you could if you tried). People should, instead, practice a little common sense when enjoying their music.

Parents can help by employing a few suggestions:

1. Tell them to turn it down. This may be difficult (if not impossible) to enforce, but at least establish some restrictions while they are in your presence.

2. Set the maximum limit on their iPod. Apple has an explanation on how to do this, complete with a combination code to prevent teenage tampering.

3. Educate your teenagers. This may fall upon deaf ears (no pun intended), but talking to teenagers can have amazing results, even if they seem uninterested. Letting them know you care. Expressing your concerns will eventually get through to them.

4. Encourage family listening. When everyone is at home or during a drive in the car, discourage your teen from shutting out the rest of the family. Try to accommodate everyone's listening choices. This may mean that you'll have to listen to things you don't necessarily want to listen to, but that's a small price to pay to save your kid's hearing.

5. Communicate with your kids. Being disengaged may only encourage your teenager to withdraw into their own world. Expressing interest in their lives and conversation, on the other hand, may discourage them from popping in those ear buds and tuning you out.

The lives of teenagers may seem like another world to parents, but we were all in their shoes at one time, so most of us can sympathize to some degree. Unfortunately, when it comes to issues of their health, parental decision-making is not always going to meet with teenage approval.

Nonetheless, parents need to set some boundaries and, at very least, let their kids know that they sincerely care about them. While every parent loves their kids, teenagers are not always aware of this fact.

If you have questions or concerns, speak with your pediatrician. For more information, visit the website for Kids Health.