Hearing loss isn’t just a problem for the elderly, despite the common belief. Overall hearing loss is on the rise in spite of the fact that age is still a strong factor. Amongst adults aged 20 to 69 loss of hearing hovers in the 14-16% range. The World Health Organization and the United Nations recommend 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 already have hearing loss and the latest research indicates that that number is closer to 17%. Only a decade ago hearing loss in teenagers was 30% lower according to another report. What’s more, a study conducted by 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. That’s an astounding increase over current numbers.
What’s Causing Us to Develop Hearing Loss Earlier?
We often think about hearing loss as a result of aging because it would progress slowly over years unless you spent extended time periods in a loud environment. That’s why you aren’t surprised when your grandmother uses a hearing aid. But changes in our lifestyle are impacting our hearing younger and younger.
Technology, and smartphones, in particular, can have a significant impact on our hearing. We are doing what we enjoy doing: watching movies, listening to music, chatting with friends and wearing earbuds or headphones for all of it. The issue is that we have no idea how loud (and for how long) is harmful 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.
Slowly but surely, an entire generation of young people are damaging their ears. That’s a huge problem, one that’s going to cost billions of dollars in treatment and loss of economic productivity.
Do we Really Understand Hearing Loss?
Keeping away from very loud sounds is something that even young children are usually sensible enough to do. But the nature of hearing damage isn’t popularly understood. It’s not generally recognized that over longer time periods, even moderate sound levels can damage hearing.
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 permanent ear damage may be occurring in those in this 12-35 age group.
The issue is particularly widespread because so many of us are using smart devices on a regular basis. That’s why offering additional information to mobile device users has been a suggested solution by some hearing experts:
- It’s how long a sound lasts, not only how loud it is (warnings when you listen at a specific decibel level for too long).
- Modifications of volume for hearing health can be made by parents by employing built in parental control settings.
- High-volume warnings.
And that’s just the start. Paying more attention to the health of our hearing, many technological solutions exist.
Reduce The Volume
If you reduce the volume of your mobile device it will be the most significant way to mitigate injury to your hearing. Whether your 15, 35, or 70, that holds true.
And there is no disputing the fact that smartphones are not going away. Everyone uses them all the time, not just kids. So we’ve got to come to terms 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. Ear protection is one way but also making sure 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 may already be at harmful levels. As always, if you have questions about your hearing, schedule a hearing exam.