While a large percentage of the country still imagines the individuals of the Millennial generation gobbling up avocado toast and buying sneakers, the oldest of the generation born between 1981 and 1996 are now in their forties. They have kids, mortgages, retirement funds and…hearing loss?
Hearing health experts and public health organizations have all sounded the warning about a rise in hearing loss among the younger generations. Both Millenials and Gen Z (1996-2012) members exhibit higher rates of hearing loss than previous generations.
Why Hearing Health Is Declining In Younger People
A study published in the BMJ Journal found that between 670 million and 1.35 billion young people, globally, are exposed to unsafe listening practices that could lead to temporary and even permanent hearing loss.
According to experts, advances in the amplification systems and the ubiquity of personal listening devices puts younger people on the precipice of serious hearing damage. In addition, younger folks also recreationally visit venues that further risk hearing health, like dance clubs and loud live music concerts.
Noise And Hearing Health
Exposure to excessive noise is a driving factor in many later onset cases of hearing loss. Our ears are marvelous designs, able to hear a whisper or leaves rustling at 20-30 decibels and to safely absorb the sound of a shouting match at 80 decibels. However, once sounds exceed 85 decibels, these volumes carry risk of damaging the hearing structures.
An extremely loud sound, like an explosion, can cause irreversible hearing loss in an instant. Much more insidious are the noises above the safe threshold level that don’t cause pain or immediate symptoms. Instead, this excessive noise takes a toll slowly and over time.
Aging And Hearing Loss
That isn’t to say that growing older isn’t contributing to the wave of younger people with hearing loss we may see in the near future. In fact, many of today’s seniors show a mix of both noise-induced and age-related hearing loss.
By age 40, the hearing of a majority of people will begin to decline due to the natural aging process. At 65, one-third of your peers will live with hearing loss, progressing still until more than half of people over 75 have the condition.
How Hearing Loss Works
Both noise and age inflict damage upon the inner ear cells that collect noise from the world and turn it into sound information that is delivered to the brain for processing and translation into meaning. The delicate inner ear cells we are born with are what we have to work with, once they become damaged or die off, we don’t make new ones to replace them. As our store of inner ear cells decline, we have less architecture to collect all the sound of the world and we begin to lose access to certain frequencies.
One of the earliest warning signs of hearing loss is difficulty with speech clarity, or hearing and understanding what other people are saying.
The Impacts Of Hearing Loss
On teenagers and children, undiagnosed and untreated hearing loss can have catastrophic impacts. It can result in language delay and other learning obstacles. In the classroom, young people can fall behind due to disengagement that emerges when listening is difficult.
For people early in their career, undiagnosed hearing loss can result in miscommunications in the workplace. Meetings, both outward facing and with internal teammates, can be frustrating and exhausting. Remember, the brain is working hard to continue to translate what it hears, but hearing loss adds to the effort because it shows up as missing frequencies in the verbal information the brain is receiving. It’s like trying to complete a puzzle with a bunch of missing pieces.
In people of all ages, additional cognitive load due to listening fatigue leads to difficulty concentrating.
How To Protect Against Hearing Loss
While we can’t turn back the clock to wind away the damage that aging presents to our bodies, it’s quite simple to adopt safe listening practices that protect your hearing health. It’s also never too late to get started!
When using personal entertainment devices, particularly when earbuds or headphones are involved, always keep volume at or below halfway. Never exceed two-thirds of maximum volume.
If live concerts and dance clubs rate high on your list of entertainment and you find yourself partaking more than once a month, invest in custom ear plugs. This ear ware performs at a superior level in blocking unsafe sound. In a pinch, a pair of the disposable foam ear plugs sold at many venues will still work better than nothing at all.
Schedule A Hearing Consultation
The best way to stay on top of your hearing health is to know where you stand today. Schedule a hearing consultation with our team today for a simple hearing exam. We’ll walk you through your results and come up with a sound plan to protect your hearing in the long term.