Often, young people consider hearing loss as something they may have to confront as they age. Unfortunately, the reality is that hearing challenges can come up much earlier and permanent hearing loss is starting to skew much younger. Millennials, uniquely positioned amidst the past few decades of technological revolution and urban development are already starting to deal with the ramifications of noise-related hearing damage and permanent hearing loss.
Noise Related Hearing Loss
Most hearing loss is permanent because it involves irreparable parts of the inner ear, most often the tiny hair cells we rely on to sense incoming sound waves. While ears evolved to detect a wide range of noises and frequencies, sounds that are very loud can cause damage to the delicate hair cells. Once a hair cell is down for the count, it can’t regenerate or replace itself, meaning that a hair cell that goes out of commission leaves a small gap in our ability to hear.
This is how hearing damage accumulates throughout our lifetime. As more and more hair cells become injured, the gaps in our hearing widen. What most people perceive as age-related hearing loss is actually mostly driven by noise-related hearing loss. Since none of our permanent hearing loss naturally restores itself, our hearing can worsen over time and the older we get the more difficult it can become to hear.
That’s not to say that significant damage to hearing has to happen slowly. Our hearing is at risk anytime we are exposed to sounds above 75 decibels (dB). The louder the sound, the exponentially less time we can listen before sustaining hearing damage to our ears. A volume of 85 dB causes hearing damage after 8 hours of exposure, while 105 dB, about the volume of a rock concert, will cause hearing damage after only 10 minutes. Hearing loss that is noise-related can develop quickly and doesn’t discriminate based on age.
Growing Up in A Noisy World
As a generation, Millennials are facing challenges to their hearing that haven’t been present in the culture before. The proliferation of smartphones, video game systems and personal music players have all made listening to headphones more common. As a consequence, they’ve also put the possibility of dangerously loud listening volumes into the user’s hands, making it possible for a young person to blast audio directly into their ear canal. Worse, headphones and ear buds mask the volume of the sound for other people so parents and friends can remain unaware of hazardous listening practices even when they are in the same room.
Today’s young people are also often exposed to excessive noise pollution. Urban development and construction, traffic and transportation noise and the density of people can all create unchecked hazardous noise levels that affect our hearing.
A lack of hearing health education leaves young people with a poor understanding of what the consequences can be of bad volume decisions now. Noise related hearing loss is a permanent, irreversible condition that takes a toll on your quality of life and requires treatment to manage.
Emerging statistics are finding that in 12-19 year olds a shocking 17% show some evidence of noise related hearing loss. Worse, much of this hearing loss may go unrecognized and untreated. Younger people have an especially hard time recognizing that they may be experiencing hearing problems. Often, Millennials assume they are “too young” to be experiencing hearing loss, even though research has found that one in four people who believe they have no hearing loss actually have significant hearing difficulties.
This is a problem because the earlier hearing loss is recognized and confronted, the easier it is to manage and the more natural treatment will seem. However, with an epidemic of hearing loss in younger people, treatment may not be sought until long after the problems first emerge. With noise related hearing loss this may be initially recognizable as trouble hearing very high or low frequency sounds.
Atlanta Hearing Doctor
The good news about permanent hearing loss is that it is treatable and Atlanta Hearing Doctor can help. Regardless of how old or young you are, we can help you manage your hearing loss and stay connected to the people and things you love most. If you’ve noticed changes in the way you hear, it’s time for a hearing exam with Atlanta Hearing Doctor.