Despite popular opinion, hearing loss isn’t only a problem for older people. In general 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 stays in the 14-16% range. Globally, more than 1 billion people from the ages of 12-35 are at risk of developing hearing loss, according to the united nations and The World Health Organization. The CDC states that roughly 15% of children between the ages of 6 and 19 currently have hearing loss and more recent research puts that number closer to 17%. Only a decade ago hearing loss in teenagers was 30% lower according to another report. Johns Hopkins performed a study projecting that by 2060 over 73 million people 65 or older will have loss of hearing. That’s an astounding increase over current numbers.
Why Are we Developing Hearing Loss at a Younger Age?
It used to be that, unless you spent your days in a loud and noisy environment, damage to your hearing would happen rather slowly, so we consider it as a side effect of aging. That’s the reason why you aren’t surprised when your grandfather uses a hearing aid. But changes in our lifestyle are impacting our hearing at a younger and younger age.
Technology, and smartphones, in particular, can have a significant impact on our hearing. We are doing what we like to do: chatting with friends, listening to music, watching movies and using earbuds or headphones to do it all. The issue is that we have no idea how loud (and for how long) is harmful to our ears. Sometimes we even use earbuds to drown out loud noises, meaning we’re voluntarily exposing our ears to harmful levels of sound instead of safeguarding them.
There’s a whole generation of young people everywhere who are gradually damaging their hearing. In terms of loss of productivity, that’s a huge problem and one that will cost billions of dollars in treatment.
Hearing Loss is Misunderstood
Even young kids are usually wise enough to stay away from incredibly loud noises. But the nature of hearing damage isn’t commonly grasped. It’s not usually recognized that over longer time periods, even moderate sound levels can injure hearing.
But hearing loss is generally associated with aging so the majority of people, particularly younger 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 irreversible damage.
The issue is especially widespread because so many of us are using smart devices regularly. That’s why providing additional information to mobile device users has been a recommended answer by some hearing specialists:
- Built-in parental controls which let parents more closely supervise volume and adjust for hearing health.
- High-volume alerts.
- 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 noise lasts).
And that’s only the start. There are plenty of technological methods to get us to start paying more attention to the health of our hearing.
Reduce The Volume
If you reduce the volume of your mobile device it will be the most important way to mitigate injury to your hearing. That’s true whether you’re 15, 35, or 70.
And there is no disputing the fact that smartphones are not going away. Everyone uses them all the time, not only kids. So we have to recognize that hearing loss has as much to do with technology as it does with aging.
That means we’re going to need to change the way we talk about, prevent, and treat hearing loss.
Also, decibel levels in your environment can be measured by app’s that you can download. 2 steps to protect your hearing. Making sure not to attempt to drown out loud noises with even louder noises and of course wearing ear protection. If you drive with the window down, for instance, the noise from the wind and traffic might already be at a damaging level so don’t crank up the radio to drown it out. Schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist if you have any questions.