In spite of common opinion, hearing loss is not just a problem for older people. Overall hearing loss is becoming more prominent in spite of the fact that how old you are is still a strong factor. Amongst adults aged 20 to 69 hearing loss hovers in the 14-16% range. The World Health Organization and the United Nations recommend that more than 1 billion people worldwide aged 12-35 are in danger of getting loss of hearing. In children between 6 and 19, about 15% already have loss of hearing as reported by the CDC, and the number appears to be closer to 17% according to more recent research. Just a decade ago hearing loss in teenagers was 30% lower as reported by another study. Johns Hopkins performed a study predicting that by 2060 over 73 million people 65 or older will have hearing loss. Over current numbers, that’s an astounding number.
What’s Causing Us to Develop Hearing Loss at a Younger Age?
We often think about hearing loss as a result of aging as it would develop slowly over years unless you spent extended time periods in a loud environment. That’s why you aren’t surprised when your grandfather uses a hearing aid. But changes in our lifestyle are impacting our hearing younger and younger.
Technology, and smartphones, in particular, can have a significant impact on our hearing. Whether you’re chatting with friends, listening to tunes, or watching movies, we are doing all the things we enjoy doing and using earbuds for all of it. Most people have no idea what is a harmful sound level or how long it takes to do damage and that’s an issue. Instead of taking steps to safeguard our ears, we often even use earbuds to drown out loud sound, voluntarily exposing our ears to harmful sound levels.
Little by little, a whole generation of young people are damaging their hearing. In terms of loss of productivity, that’s a big problem and one that will cost billions of dollars in treatment.
Do we Really Understand Hearing Loss?
Keeping away from very loud noises is something that even young children are generally sensible enough to do. But it isn’t generally understood what hearing loss is about. Most people won’t recognize that medium intensity sounds can also damage your hearing if the exposure is long enough.
But hearing loss is normally associated with aging so most people, specifically young people, don’t even think about it.
According to the WHO, those in this 12-35-year-old age group might be exposing their ears to permanent damage.
The issue is especially widespread because so many of us are using smart devices on a regular basis. That’s why providing additional information to mobile device users has been a suggested solution by some hearing professionals:
- High-volume warnings.
- It’s how long a sound lasts, not just how loud it is (warnings when you listen at a specific decibel level for too long).
- Built-in parental settings that let parents more closely supervise volume and adjust for hearing health.
And that’s just the beginning. Paying more attention to the health of our ears, plenty of technological solutions exist.
Reduce The Volume
The most significant way to minimize damage to your ears is to reduce the volume at which you listen to your mobile device. That’s true whether you’re 15, 35, or 70.
And there is no disputing the fact that smartphones are not going away. It’s not only kids that are attached to them, it’s everyone. So we have to deal with the fact that loss of hearing is no longer associated with aging, it’s associated with technology.
Which means we need to change the way we discuss, prevent, and deal with hearing loss.
You should also try downloading an app that measures decibel levels in your environment. 2 steps to protect your hearing. Making sure not to try to drown out loud noises with even louder noises and of course wearing ear protection. If you drive with the window down, for example, the noise from the wind and traffic could 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.