In spite of popular belief, hearing loss isn’t just an issue for the elderly. In general hearing loss is on the rise despite the fact that how old you are is still a strong factor. Hearing loss remains at about 14-16% among adults 20 to 69 years of age. The World Health Organization and the United Nations recommend that more than 1 billion people globally age 12-35 are at risk of getting hearing loss. In children between the ages of 6 and 19, nearly 15% already have hearing loss as reported by the CDC, and the number seems to be closer to 17% based on current research. Only a decade ago hearing loss in teenagers was 30% lower according to another report. Worse still, a study from Johns Hopkins projects these trends out into the future and forecasts that by 2060 around 73 million people over the age of 65 will have hearing loss. Over current numbers, that’s a staggering number.
We Are Getting Hearing Loss at a Younger Age, Why?
It used to be that, if you didn’t spend your days in a loud and noisy environment, damage to your hearing would develop fairly slowly, so we consider it as an inevitable outcome of getting older. This is why when you’re grandfather wears a hearing aid, you’re not surprised. But changes in our lifestyle are affecting our hearing younger and younger.
Technology, and smartphones, in particular, can have a significant impact on our hearing. Whether it’s talking to friends, listening to tunes, or watching movies, we are doing all the things we enjoy doing and wearing earbuds for all of it. The issue is that we have no idea what level of volume (and what duration of that volume) is harmful to our ears. Sometimes 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 ears. 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 Not Well Understood
Even young children are usually sensible enough to avoid extremely loud noises. But it isn’t widely understood what hearing loss is about. The majority of people won’t recognize that medium intensity noises can also damage your hearing if the exposure is long enough.
Of course, the majority of people around the world, particularly young people, aren’t really concerned about the risks of hearing loss because they think that it’s only an aging problem.
According to the WHO, people in this 12-35-year-old age group might be exposing their ears to permanent damage.
Because so many people use smart devices frequently, it’s an especially extensive issue. That’s why offering additional information to mobile device users has been a suggested solution by some hearing professionals:
- Built-in parental settings 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).
- Extreme-volume warnings.
And that’s just the start. Paying more attention to the health of our ears, many technological possibilities exist.
Turn The Volume Down
If you reduce the volume of your mobile device it will be the most important way to minimize damage to your ears. Whether your 15, 35, or 70, that holds true.
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.
Which means we need to change the way we discuss, prevent, and deal with hearing loss.
Also, decibel levels in your environment can be measured by app’s that you can download. 2 steps to protect your hearing. Ear protection is one way but also making certain you’re not doing things like trying to drown out noises with even louder noises. 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 may already be at damaging levels. As always, if you have questions about your hearing, schedule a hearing exam.