In spite of common belief, hearing loss isn’t only a problem for the elderly. While age is a reliable predictor of hearing loss, overall hearing loss has been rising. Among adults aged 20 to 69 hearing loss hovers in the 14-16% range. The World Health Organization and the United Nations suggests that more than 1 billion people worldwide aged 12-35 are at risk of getting hearing loss. The CDC states that roughly 15% of children between the ages of 6 and 19 already have loss of hearing and the latest research indicates that that number is closer to 17%. Just a decade ago hearing loss in teenagers was 30% lower as reported by another report. Johns Hopkins performed a study projecting that by 2060 over 73 million people 65 or older will have loss of hearing. Over current numbers, that’s a staggering number.
We Are Getting Hearing Loss at a Younger Age, Why?
We tend to consider hearing loss as a result of aging as it would develop slowly over years unless you spent extended amounts of time in a loud setting. That’s why you aren’t surprised when your grandfather uses a hearing aid. But at a younger and younger age, our hearing is being effected by changes of ways of life.
Technology, and smartphones, in particular, can have a significant impact on our hearing. We are doing what we enjoy doing: watching movies, listening to music, chatting with friends and wearing earbuds or headphones to do it all. Most people have no clue what is a damaging sound level or how long it takes to do damage and that’s an issue. Occasionally we even use earbuds to drown out loud noises, meaning we’re voluntarily subjecting our ears to harmful levels of sound instead of protecting them.
Little by little, a whole generation of young people are damaging their hearing. In terms of loss of productivity, that’s a huge problem and one that will cost billions of dollars in treatment.
Loss of hearing is Misunderstood
Even young kids are usually smart enough to avoid extremely loud noises. But the nature of hearing damage isn’t widely understood. Most people won’t know that medium intensity sounds can also damage your hearing if exposed for longer time periods.
But hearing loss is commonly associated with aging so the majority of people, specifically young people, aren’t even concerned with it.
However, the WHO says irreversible ear damage may be occurring in those in this 12-35 age group.
Options And Recommendations
The issue is especially widespread because so many of us are using smart devices on a regular basis. That’s why some hearing professionals have recommended solutions that focus on providing mobile device users with additional information:
- Built-in parental controls that allow parents to more closely monitor volume and adjust for hearing health.
- It’s how long a sound lasts, not just how loud it is (warnings when you listen at a specified decibel for too long).
- High-volume alerts.
And that’s just the beginning. There are plenty of technological ways to get us to start paying more attention to the health of our hearing.
Turn Down The Volume
If you reduce the volume of your mobile device it will be the most important way to minimize injury to your ears. 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 recognize that hearing loss has as much to do with technology as it does with aging.
Which means we’re going to 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 certain not to try to drown out loud noises with even louder noises and of course using ear protection. For example, if you drive with your windows down, don’t turn up the music to hear it better, the noise from the wind and traffic could already be at damaging levels. Make an appointment with a hearing care specialist if you have any questions.