In spite of common belief, hearing loss is not only an issue for older people. While age is a strong predictor of hearing loss, overall hearing loss has been on the rise. Hearing loss stays at about 14-16% amongst adults 20 to 69 years of age. The World Health Organization and the United Nations suggests that more than 1 billion people globally aged 12-35 are in danger of developing hearing loss. In children between 6 and 19, nearly 15% already have hearing loss according to the CDC, and the number seems to be closer to 17% based on more recent research. Only a decade ago hearing loss in teenagers was 30% lower as reported by another report. 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 hearing loss. That’s a staggering increase over current numbers.
What’s Causing Us to Develop Hearing Loss at a Younger Age?
We usually think about hearing loss as a result of aging as it would progress 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 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. Whether you’re talking to friends, listening to music, or watching movies, we are doing all the things we enjoy doing and using earbuds to do it all. The issue is that we have no clue what level of volume (and what duration of that volume) is damaging to our hearing. Instead of taking steps to safeguard our ears, we even regularly use earbuds to drown out loud sound, purposely subjecting our ears to hazardous sound levels.
Little by little, an entire generation of young people are damaging their ears. 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?
Even young kids are usually smart enough to avoid extremely loud noises. But it isn’t popularly understood what hearing loss is about. It’s not usually recognized that over longer time periods, even moderate sound levels can damage hearing.
Of course, most people around the world, especially young people, aren’t really concerned about the dangers of hearing loss because they think that it’s only an aging problem.
According to the WHO, those in this 12-35-year-old age group might be exposing their ears to permanent damage.
Solutions And Recommendations
The problem is especially widespread because so many of us are using smart devices on a regular basis. That’s why offering additional information to mobile device users has been a recommended answer by some hearing experts:
- Built-in parental settings that allow parents to more closely monitor volume and adjust for hearing health.
- High-volume warnings.
- It’s how long a sound lasts, not just how loud it is (warnings when you listen at a specified decibel level for too long).
And that’s only the start. There are a lot of technological ways to get us to start paying more attention to the health of our hearing.
Turn The Volume Down
If you minimize the volume of your mobile device it will be the most important way to minimize damage to your hearing. That’s true whether you’re 15, 35, or 70.
Let’s be honest, smartphones aren’t going anywhere. It’s not just kids that are attached to them, it’s everyone. So we’ve got to come to terms with the fact that loss of hearing is no longer linked to aging, it’s associated with technology.
Which means we’re going to need to change the way we discuss, prevent, and treat 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 attempt to drown out loud noises with even louder noises and of course using ear protection. If you drive with the window down, for example, the noise from the wind and traffic might already be at a harmful level so don’t turn up the radio to drown it out. As always, if you have questions about your hearing, come talk to us.