In spite of common belief, hearing loss is not just an issue for the elderly. While age is a reliable predictor of hearing loss, as a whole hearing loss has been rising. Hearing loss stays at around 14-16% amongst adults 20 to 69 years old. The World Health Organization and the United Nations recommend that more than 1 billion people globally aged 12-35 are at risk of developing hearing loss. The CDC says roughly 15% of children between 6 and 19 already have hearing loss and more recent research puts that number closer to 17%. Just a decade ago hearing loss in teenagers was 30% lower according to another report. Johns Hopkins conducted a study projecting that by 2060 over 73 million people 65 or older 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 develop rather slowly, so we think about it as an inevitable outcome of aging. That’s the reason why you aren’t surprised when your grandfather uses a hearing aid. 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 it’s talking to friends, listening to music, or watching movies, we are doing all the things we enjoy doing and wearing earbuds to do it all. Most people have no clue what is a harmful volume or how long it takes to do damage and that’s a problem. Instead of doing our best to protect our ears, we even regularly use earbuds to drown out loud noise, purposely exposing our ears to harmful noise levels.
Gradually, a whole generation of young people are damaging their ears. In terms of loss of productivity, that’s a big concern and one that will cost billions of dollars in treatment.
Do we Really Understand Hearing Loss?
Avoiding extremely loud noises is something that even young children are generally smart enough to do. But it isn’t generally understood what hearing loss is about. It’s not commonly recognized that over longer time periods, even moderate sound levels can injure hearing.
Of course, most people around the world, especially young people, aren’t really thinking about the risks of hearing loss because they think that it’s only an aging problem.
However, the WHO says permanent ear damage could be occurring in those in this 12-35 age group.
Solutions And Suggestions
The issue is especially widespread because so many of us are using smart devices regularly. That’s the reason why some hearing specialists have recommended solutions that focus on offering mobile device users with additional information:
- High-volume warnings.
- Built-in parental settings that let parents more closely supervise volume and adjust for hearing health.
- It’s how long a sound lasts, not only how loud it is (warnings when you listen at a specified decibel for too long).
And that’s just the start. There are plenty of technological methods to get us to start paying more attention to the well being of our hearing.
Turn The Volume Down
If you decrease the volume of your mobile device it will be the most important way to minimize damage to your hearing. That’s true whether you’re 15, 35, or 70.
Let’s be honest, smartphones aren’t going anywhere. It’s not just kids that are attached to them, it’s everyone. 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 certain you’re not doing things like trying to drown out noises with even louder noises. If you drive with the window down, for example, the noise from the wind and traffic might already be at a harmful 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.