Why Hearing Loss is Not an Age Issue
Hearing loss isn’t just an issue for older people, in spite of the prevalent belief. While age is a strong predictor of hearing loss, as a whole hearing loss has been on the rise. Among adults aged 20 to 69 loss of hearing hovers in the 14-16% range. World wide, more than 1 billion people from the ages of 12-35 are in danger of developing hearing loss, according to the united nations and The World Health Organization. The CDC says roughly 15% of children between the ages of 6 and 19 already have loss of hearing and more recent research puts that number closer to 17%. Other reports say hearing loss is up 30% in teenagers from just 10 years ago. Even worse, a study from Johns Hopkins projects these trends out into the future and estimates that by 2060 approximately 73 million people over the age of 65 will have loss of hearing. Over current numbers, that’s an astounding number.
Why Are we Developing Hearing Loss at a Younger Age?
It used to be that, if you didn’t spend your days in a loud and noisy surrounding, damage to your hearing would develop rather slowly, so we think about it as an inevitable outcome of aging. 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 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 wearing earbuds or headphones for all of it. The problem 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 exposing our ears to harmful levels of sound instead of safeguarding them.
Slowly but surely, an entire generation of young people are damaging their hearing. That’s a huge problem, one that will cost billions of dollars in treatment and loss of economic productivity.
Hearing Loss is Not Well Understood
Even young kids are usually sensible enough to stay away from extremely loud noises. But it isn’t commonly understood what hearing loss is about. Most people won’t know that medium intensity noises can also damage your hearing if exposed for longer time periods.
But hearing loss is generally associated with aging so the majority of people, specifically young people, don’t even think about it.
However, the WHO says irreversible ear damage could be happening to those in this 12-35 age group.
Options And Suggestions
The problem is especially widespread because so many of us are using smart devices on a regular basis. That’s the reason why some hearing specialists have suggested answers that focus on providing mobile device users with additional information:
- Warnings about high volume.
- It’s how long a sound persists, not just how loud it is (warnings when you listen at a specific decibel level for too long).
- Built-in parental controls that let parents more closely monitor volume and adjust for hearing health.
And that’s only the beginning. Paying more attention to the health of our ears, many technological solutions exist.
Turn Down The Volume
The most significant way to mitigate damage to your hearing is to reduce the volume at which you listen to your mobile device. That’s true whether you’re 15, 35, or 70.
After all, smartphones aren’t going anywhere. 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 associated with 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 certain 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 could already be at a damaging level so don’t crank up the radio to drown it out. Make an appointment with a hearing care professional if you have any questions.