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Kids are already tuned into their Christmas iPods, but it's not too late to download an app that could save their hearing.

The free Auto-Old My Music is designed to scare teens into turning down the volume. It lets them hear Lady Gaga or Kanye West the way their hearing-impaired parents would — muffled and muddy, just like it sounds to someone who can't hear the high pitches any more.

An estimated 6.5 million youths between the ages of 12 and 19 already have some hearing loss, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Another study in the Nov. 14 edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine reports that nearly one-fifth of all Americans 12 or older have hearing loss so severe that it may make communication difficult.

In response to the studies, Baptist Memorial Health Care in Memphis developed the Auto-Old app as part of a campaign to prevent further hearing loss. It's only compatible with Apple products and free at There's also The Ear Knob, which allows listeners to see who can detect the highest frequencies, and The Volume Zone, a noise gauge.

Tom Wilemon, The Tennessean