In spite of popular opinion, hearing loss is not just a problem for seniors. While age is a strong predictor of hearing loss, overall hearing loss has been rising. Amongst adults aged 20 to 69 loss of hearing stays in the 14-16% range. The World Health Organization and the United Nations suggests that more than 1 billion people globally aged 12-35 are in danger of getting hearing loss. In children between the ages of 6 and 19, nearly 15% already have loss of hearing as reported by the CDC, and the number appears to be closer to 17% based on more recent research. Other reports say hearing loss is up 30% in teenagers over only 10 years ago. What’s more, a study from Johns Hopkins projects these trends out into the future and estimates that by 2060 around 73 million people over the age of 65 will have loss of hearing. Over current numbers, that’s an astounding number.
We Are Developing Hearing Loss at a Younger Age, Why?
We usually think about hearing loss as a side effect of aging as it would develop slowly over years unless you spent extended time periods in a noisy setting. That’s the reason why you aren’t surprised when your grandmother uses a hearing aid. But changes in our way of life are impacting our hearing younger and younger.
Technology, and smartphones, in particular, can have a significant impact on our hearing. Whether you’re talking to friends, listening to tunes, or watching movies, we are doing all the things we love to do and using earbuds to do it all. Most people have no clue what is a harmful volume or how long it takes to do damage and that’s problematic. Sometimes we even use earbuds to drown out loud noises, meaning we’re voluntarily subjecting our ears to harmful levels of sound instead of safeguarding them.
There’s a whole generation of young people everywhere who are gradually injuring their ability to hear. That’s a huge problem, one that’s going to cost billions of dollars in terms of treatment and loss of economic productivity.
Do we Really Understand Hearing Loss?
Even young kids are usually sensible enough to avoid extremely loud noises. But it isn’t commonly understood what hearing loss is about. Most people aren’t going to know that medium intensity noises can also damage your hearing if the exposure is long enough.
But hearing loss is normally associated with aging so most people, especially younger people, don’t even think about it.
However, the WHO says irreversible ear damage may be occurring in those in this 12-35 age group.
The problem is especially widespread because so many of us are using smart devices on a regular basis. That’s the reason why providing additional information to mobile device users has been a recommended answer by some hearing specialists:
- Warnings when you listen too long at a specific decibel level (it’s not simply the volume of a sound that can cause damage it’s how long the sound lasts).
- Extreme-volume warnings.
- Modifications of volume for hearing health can be made by parents by using built in parental control settings.
And that’s only the start. There are plenty of technological ways to get us to start paying more attention to the well being of our hearing.
Reduce The Volume
The most important way to minimize damage to your hearing is to decrease the volume of your mobile device. That’s true whether you’re 15, 35, or 70.
Let’s be honest, smartphones aren’t going anywhere. Everyone uses them all the time, not just kids. So we have to understand that hearing loss has as much to do with technology as it does with aging.
That means the way we prevent, treat, and talk about hearing loss has to change.
You should also try downloading an app that measures decibel levels in your environment. 2 steps to protect your hearing. Making certain not to try to drown out loud noises with even louder noises and of course using ear protection. If you drive with the window down, for instance, the noise from the wind and traffic may already be at a damaging level so don’t turn up the radio to drown it out. As always, if you have questions about your hearing, schedule a hearing exam.