Objective: Investigate hearing function and headphone listening habits in nine-year-old Swedish children.
Design: A cross-sectional study was conducted and included otoscopy, tympanometry, pure-tone audiometry, and spontaneous otoacoustic emissions (SOAE). A questionnaire was used to evaluate headphone listening habits, tinnitus, and hyperacusis.
Study sample: A total of 415 children aged nine years.
Results: The prevalence of a hearing threshold ≥20 dB HL at one or several frequencies was 53%, and the hearing thresholds at 6 and 8 kHz were higher than those at the low and mid frequencies. SOAEs were observed in 35% of the children, and the prevalence of tinnitus was 5.3%. No significant relationship between SOAE and tinnitus was found. Pure-tone audiometry showed poorer hearing thresholds in children with tinnitus and in children who regularly listened with headphones.
Conclusion: The present study of hearing, listening habits, and tinnitus in nine-year old children is, to our knowledge, the largest study so far. The main findings were that hearing thresholds in the right ear were poorer in children who used headphones than in children not using them, which could be interpreted as headphone listening may have negative consequences to children's hearing. Children with tinnitus showed poorer hearing thresholds compared to children without tinnitus.
Keywords: Children; SOAE; hearing loss; hearing threshold; listening habits; portable music players; tinnitus; tympanometry.