In spite of common opinion, hearing loss isn’t only an issue for the elderly. In general hearing loss is on the rise in spite of the fact that how old you are is still a strong factor. 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 age 12-35 are at risk of getting loss of hearing. In children between 6 and 19, about 15% already have loss of hearing as reported by the CDC, and the number appears to be closer to 17% based on current research. Just a decade ago hearing loss in teenagers was 30% lower according to another study. Even worse, a study conducted by Johns Hopkins projects these trends out into the future and estimates that by 2060 about 73 million people above the age of 65 will have hearing loss. Over current numbers, that’s an astounding number.
What’s Causing Us to Develop Hearing Loss Earlier?
It used to be that, unless you spent your days in a loud and noisy environment, damage to your hearing would happen rather slowly, so we think about it as a side effect of getting older. That’s the reason why you aren’t surprised when your grandmother wears a hearing aid. But changes in our way of life are impacting our hearing at a younger and younger age.
Technology, and smartphones, in particular, can have a significant impact on our hearing. We are doing what we like to do: listening to music, chatting with friends, watching movies and using earbuds or headphones to do it all. The problem 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, purposely exposing our ears to harmful sound levels.
Gradually, a whole generation of young people are damaging their ears. That’s a huge concern, one that will cost billions of dollars in terms of treatment and loss of economic productivity.
Loss of hearing is Misunderstood
Even young children are usually smart enough to stay away from extremely loud noises. But the nature of hearing damage isn’t generally understood. It’s not commonly recognized that over longer time periods, even moderate sound levels can harm hearing.
But hearing loss is normally associated with aging so most people, specifically young people, don’t even think about it.
According to the WHO, those in this 12-35-year-old age group may be exposing their ears to permanent damage.
Because so many people utilize smart devices regularly, it’s an especially extensive issue. That’s why providing additional information to mobile device users has been a recommended answer by some hearing professionals:
- Extreme-volume alerts.
- 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).
- Built-in parental controls which allow parents to more closely monitor volume and adjust for hearing health.
And that’s only the beginning. Paying more attention to the health of our hearing, plenty of technological solutions exist.
Turn The Volume Down
If you minimize the volume of your mobile device it will be the most significant way to mitigate injury 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 linked to aging, it’s associated with technology.
That means the way we prevent, treat, and talk about hearing loss has to change.
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 wearing ear protection. If you drive with the window down, for example, the noise from the wind and traffic might already be at a damaging level so don’t crank up the radio to drown it out. Make an appointment with a hearing care specialist if you have any questions.