Despite popular opinion, hearing loss is not just an issue for the elderly. Overall hearing loss is on the rise in spite of the fact that age is still a strong factor. Hearing loss remains at around 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 aged 12-35 are in danger of getting hearing loss. In children between 6 and 19, nearly 15% already have loss of hearing as reported by the CDC, and the number appears to be closer to 17% based on more recent research. Other reports say hearing loss is up 30% in teenagers from only 10 years ago. Even worse, 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 loss of hearing. That’s an astounding increase over current numbers.
What’s Causing Us to Develop Hearing Loss at a Younger Age?
We tend to think about hearing loss as a side effect of aging as it would develop slowly over years unless you spent extended time periods in a loud setting. This is the reason why when you’re grandmother wears 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. Whether you’re talking to friends, listening to music, or watching movies, we are doing all the things we love to do 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 damaging to our hearing. Instead of doing our best to safeguard our ears, we even regularly use earbuds to drown out loud noise, voluntarily exposing our ears to dangerous noise levels.
There’s an entire generation of young people everywhere who are gradually damaging their ability to hear. That’s a big problem, one that’s going to cost billions of dollars in treatment and loss of economic productivity.
Do we Really Understand Hearing Loss?
Even young children are usually smart enough to stay away from incredibly loud noises. But it isn’t well understood what hearing loss is about. The majority of people won’t recognize that medium intensity noises 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 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 could be exposing their ears to irreversible damage.
Because so many people use smart devices frequently, it’s an especially widespread issue. That’s why many hearing professionals have suggested solutions that focus on offering mobile device users with additional information:
- It’s how long a sound persists, not only how loud it is (warnings when you listen at a particular decibel level for too long).
- Warnings about high volume.
- Built-in parental controls that let parents more closely supervise volume and adjust for hearing health.
And that’s just the beginning. Paying more attention to the health of our hearing, many technological solutions exist.
Turn The Volume Down
The most significant way to mitigate damage to your hearing is to decrease the volume of your mobile device. That’s true whether you’re 15, 35, or 70.
And there is no arguing the fact that smartphones are not going away. It’s not just kids that are addicted to them, it’s everyone. So we have to deal with the fact that hearing loss is no longer linked to aging, it’s associated with technology.
Which means we’re going to need to change the way we talk about, 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 trying 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 turn up the radio to drown it out. As always, if you have questions about your hearing, schedule a hearing exam.