Despite popular opinion, hearing loss is not just an issue for older people. In general hearing loss is on the rise in spite of the fact that age 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 age 12-35 are in danger of getting loss of hearing. The CDC says nearly 15% of children between 6 and 19 already have loss of hearing and more recent research puts that number closer to 17%. Other reports state that hearing loss is up 30% in teenagers over only a decade ago. 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. That’s an astounding increase over current numbers.
We Are Developing Hearing Loss at a Younger Age, Why?
We often consider hearing loss as a side effect of aging as it would progress slowly over years unless you spent extended amounts of time in a loud environment. This is the reason why when you’re grandfather uses a hearing aid, you’re not surprised. But at a younger and younger age, our hearing is being effected by changes of lifestyle.
Technology, and smartphones, in particular, can have a significant impact on our hearing. We are doing what we enjoy doing: listening to music, chatting with friends, watching movies and using earbuds or headphones for all of it. Most people have no idea what is a damaging sound level or how long it takes to do damage and that’s a problem. 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 an entire generation of young people around the world who are gradually damaging their hearing. That’s a big problem, one that’s going to cost billions of dollars in treatment and loss of productivity in the economy.
Loss of hearing is Misunderstood
Avoiding very loud noises is something that even young children are generally wise enough to do. But the nature of hearing damage isn’t widely grasped. It’s not generally recognized that over longer time periods, even moderate sound levels can injure hearing.
But hearing loss is normally associated with aging so most people, especially young people, don’t even think about it.
However, the WHO says permanent ear damage could be occurring in those in this 12-35 age group.
Because so many people utilize smart devices frequently, it’s an especially extensive issue. That’s why providing additional information to mobile device users has been a recommended solution by some hearing experts:
- Built-in parental controls which let parents more closely supervise volume and adjust for hearing health.
- Warnings about high volume.
- Warnings when you listen too long at a specific decibel level (it’s not only the volume of a sound that can result in damage it’s how long the noise persists).
And that’s just the start. There are plenty of technological ways to get us to begin to pay 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 just kids. So we have to recognize that hearing loss has as much to do with technology as it does with aging.
That means we need to change the way we discuss, 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. Ear protection is one way but also making certain you’re not doing things such as attempting to drown out noises with even louder noises. As an 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 harmful levels. As always, if you have questions about your hearing, schedule a hearing exam.