There is a prevailing myth that hearing loss only affects older adults. A February 2017 study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that nearly 8 million people between the ages of 20 and 29 years old is experiencing some form of hearing loss—that’s nearly 10 percent of the entire Millennial generation. (It is not only Millennials who are experiencing higher rates of hearing loss. 1 in 5 teens has some form of hearing loss—which is approximately 30% more teens experiencing hearing loss than were reported in the 1980s and 1990s.)
So, while it is true that the signs of hearing loss may increase with age, it is not true only old people experience hearing loss. Many Millennials are at risk for hearing loss as well. Millennials are a crucial group of people in the U.S., especially for the economy. Untreated hearing loss amongst this population can have serious effects on their individual lifestyle, of course, but also on the greater wellbeing of the nation. A 2012 study published in the journal Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology found that people with hearing loss can earn significantly lower wages. For the some 6 million people who are experiencing hearing loss, including the growing number of teenagers, establishing healthy hearing habits will continue to be critically important.
Understanding the Causes of Hearing Loss
The roots of hearing loss can be biological and environmental. It can be caused by temporary and sustained exposure to loud noises, such as those that happen in workplaces that use heavy machinery or in occupations such as military work. Sustained exposure to loud noises can occur in other places too, especially those Millennials might be prone to—including, for example, loud concerts. Some signs of hearing loss include ringing, hissing, or whistling in the ear (also called tinnitus), a feeling that sound is muffled or that the ear is plugged, difficulty understanding speech in busy places, and listening to devices such as the TV and even headphones at higher than expected volumes.
It is important to address these signs hearing loss no matter what age you are. Research shows that there are links between hearing loss and other health factors, including dementia, anxiety, and depression. These are also feelings and experiences that Millennials are experiencing at great rates, in part because of the challenging political climate they were raised in and in part because advances in mental health services have ensured that people are properly diagnosed and treated.
Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss
There are several steps you can take to address hearing loss. The first is of course to make an appointment with your hearing health professional in order to get a safe and non-invasive hearing test. Your audiologist will be able to help you establishing a hearing health plan that best suits your needs. This hearing health plan may include assistive hearing technologies such as hearing aids and hearing amplifiers. Luckily the stereotype of large, ugly, and costly hearing aids has been transformed by innovative companies investing in low-cost and stylish hearing aids. Modern day hearing aids are so technologically advanced that they come in small, nearly invisible varieties as well as inconspicuous behind-the-ear versions. Some hearing aids come with Wifi capability, and many of them allow you to easily adjust the volume and directional microphones. No matter your age, there are a variety of hearing aids that can improve your hearing health.
Preventing Hearing Loss
There are other, everyday ways that you can avoid the negative consequences of hearing loss. The first is to remain vigilant about where you experience hearing loss, and to limit your exposure to those settings or to incorporate ear plugs when you are to be in them. Audiologists generally agree that sounds over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. Riding a New York City subway train can easily approach 100 decibels, and a busy city street can approach 80 and 90 decibels. A great danger to hearing health are actually headphones, which are ubiquitous amongst Millennials. In-ear headphones are particularly dangerous because, when inserted, they are closer to your ear drum and can increase the sound by upwards of 9 decibels—and we often listen to our headphones at higher volume when in already-loud spaces such as public transportation spaces. A good rule of thumb is the 60-60 rule: listen to music through your headphones at 60% of maximum volume for a maximum of 60 minutes.
Visit Us at Active Hearing and Audiology
Millennials can and should take care of their hearing in order to ensure lasting hearing health, of course. Doing so can also guard against mental health issues that are related to and associated with untreated hearing loss and can go a long way to maintain and increase wages. To learn more, contact us at Active Hearing and Audiology.