In spite of popular belief, hearing loss is not just an issue for seniors. While age is a reliable predictor of hearing loss, as a whole hearing loss has been on the rise. Hearing loss remains at around 14-16% among adults 20 to 69 years old. The World Health Organization and the United Nations suggests that more than 1 billion people worldwide aged 12-35 are in danger of developing loss of hearing. The CDC states that roughly 15% of children between 6 and 19 currently have loss of hearing and the latest research puts that number closer to 17%. Other reports say hearing loss is up 30% in teenagers over only a decade ago. Johns Hopkins performed a study predicting that by 2060 over 73 million people 65 or older will have loss of hearing. Over current numbers, that’s a staggering number.
What’s Causing Us to Develop Hearing Loss Earlier?
In the past, if you didn’t spend your days in a loud and noisy surrounding, 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 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 chatting with friends, listening to music, or watching movies, we are doing all the things we enjoy doing and using earbuds for all of it. The issue is that we have no idea what level of volume (and what duration of that volume) is damaging to our ears. Occasionally we even use earbuds to drown out loud noises, meaning we’re voluntarily subjecting our ears to damaging levels of sound instead of protecting 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 concern and one that will cost billions of dollars in treatment.
Loss of hearing is Not Well Understood
Keeping away from very loud noises is something that even young kids are generally wise enough to do. But the nature of hearing damage isn’t widely understood. The majority of people aren’t going to know that medium intensity sounds can also damage your hearing if exposed for longer time periods.
Needless to say, most people around the world, especially young people, aren’t really thinking about the hazards of hearing loss because they associate it with aging.
However, the WHO says irreversible ear damage might be occurring in those in this 12-35 age group.
Solutions And Recommendations
The problem is especially widespread because so many of us are using smart devices on a regular basis. That’s why many hearing professionals have recommended answers that focus on providing mobile device users with additional information:
- High-volume warnings.
- Warnings when you listen too long at a specific decibel level (it’s not just the volume of a sound that can result in damage it’s how long the noise lasts).
- Built-in parental settings which allow parents to more closely supervise volume and adjust for hearing health.
And that’s just the beginning. 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 minimize the volume of your mobile device it will be the most significant way to mitigate damage to your ears. Whether your 15, 35, or 70, that holds true.
And there is no arguing the fact that smartphones are not going away. It’s not just kids that are attached to them, it’s everyone. So we have to deal with the fact that hearing loss is no longer associated with aging, it’s associated with technology.
That means we need to change the way we talk about, 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. 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. If you drive with the window down, for instance, the noise from the wind and traffic may already be at a damaging level so don’t crank up the radio to drown it out. As always, if you have questions about your hearing, schedule a hearing exam.