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PORTLAND - It s a common joke if you have teens at home, you wonder if they can hear at all. It turns out there s an alarming rise in the number of teenagers with hearing loss.

There are teens out there who need hearing aids who are not being treated. It s sad, said Providence St. Vincent Audiologist Christi Sperry.

The experts point to earbuds as a major reason hearing loss in teens has jumped 33 percent since 1994.

Earbuds sit inside the ear and you can hear outside noise, so teens pump up the volume to cancel that out, explained Sperry.

A safe level of noise for our ears is 85 decibels. A blow dryer is 90 decibels and often times, music levels for teens reach over 100 decibels.

I m too into my music to worry about it, said AAliyah Pe a as she inserted her ear buds to listen to Poetic Justice.

Noise-induced hearing loss is permanent because the pounding sound kills off hair cells in the ear which receive sound.

It s sort of like reading a newspaper with having chunks of letters taken out, explained Speer.

A 15-minute hearing test can determine if there s a loss.

They ll have normal hearing typically in low frequencies, but we ll see a dip in hearing the high frequencies, said Sperry.

Earbud use she says should be limited to 20 minutes to an hour at most, but listening through headphones is better.

They cancel out the surrounding noise, so teens are more likely to keep the volume at a reasonable level, Sperry said.

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