Recently, hearing loss has begun affecting millennials at increasing rates. Our modern technology, increased noise pollution, and louder leisure activities have all played a role in the growing number of young people developing hearing loss. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), youth hearing loss is a worldwide crisis. WHO estimates that over a billion young people (aged 12-35) are at risk for developing hearing loss due to their recreational activities (http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss).
As a society, it is time that we stopped viewing hearing loss as an issue for the “aging” and start equipping ourselves with the knowledge and skills to protect our own hearing, as well as the hearing of the youngest amongst us.
Why are Millennials Experiencing Hearing Loss?
It is estimated that about 1 in every 5 teenagers today has some form of hearing loss – an astonishing increase of about 30% from the same age group during the 90s. According to WHO and other research establishments, the reason for this increase is due to excess exposure to loud noises (https://www.signiausa.com/blog/young-people-losing-hearing/).
One of the biggest culprits is personal listening devices and ear buds. With access to movies, TV shows, YouTube videos and any music on the planet in our phones, there is no wonder we are listening to our personal listening devices more often than we did in the past. Not only do we have more access, but iPhones of today are able to pump out volumes much louder than listening devices of yesteryear – such as the Walkman. Another reason personal listening devices of today are causing more hearing loss is the actual earbuds. Earbuds sit in the ear and are therefore much closer to the eardrum and much more likely to cause damage than headphones of the past.
Although they are a prominent reason, personal listening devices are not the only reason young people experience noise related hearing loss. Technology has been able to increase noise levels in our homes with theater quality surround sound, our cars, and even the bars and clubs young people tend to frequent.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
Because noise induced hearing loss accounts for about 60% of cases of hearing loss in children, we wanted to take some time to explain it here. Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is hearing loss that is caused by excess exposure to loud noises. Loud noises damage the delicate “hair cells” located in our inner ears that are responsible for transmitting sound vibrations into electrical signals that are sent to the brain for processing. Most of the time, NIHL is cumulative, meaning it is the result of exposure to loud noises over the course of months, years or even decades. Because NIHL is most often so gradual, it is often difficult to detect.
The good news about NIHL is it is the only type of hearing loss that is 100% preventable. Educating yourself and those you love about the dangers of excess noise exposure on your hearing, as well as understand precautionary steps you can take can help protect your hearing for decades to come (https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss).
How Silent Gens, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials and Post-Millennials can Protect Their Hearing
We included millennials here as well as surrounding generations because you are never too old or too young to start protecting your hearing. It is also important to note that hearing protection is also important even if you already have a hearing loss. Follow these steps to help protect the hearing of your whole family.
- Wear Hearing Protection. We understand that some of your favorite activities are loud and noisy. You don’t have to avoid the things you love like watching your favorite cover band or attending sporting events to protect your hearing. Wearing hearing protection allows you to enjoy the activities you love while protecting your ears and hearing.
- Follow the 60/60 Rule. The 60/60 rule pertains to personal listening devices. This rule suggests listening to your personal listening device at or below 60% of the max volume for up to 60 minutes before taking a break.
- Give Your Ears a Break. Because noise induced hearing loss is cumulative, any breaks you give your ears will help protect your hearing. Try to commit to one day a week where you choose silent or quiet activities such as reading a book or hiking over watching TV or driving the convertible.