Contrary to popular belief, gone are the days of hearing loss being a condition reserved for the elderly. According to a new survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, many younger Americans as young as 20 have hearing loss and don’t even realize it. Don’t believe the CDC? The World Health Organization confirms this by estimating that about 1.1 billion young people worldwide are at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe usage of technology such as personal listening devices.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss is Not Reserved for Workplaces… Or Older Adults
Noise induced hearing loss is still the most commonly reported occupational health concern in the United States – but did you know many people who work in quiet environments suffer from noise induced hearing loss? Noise induced hearing loss or NIHL is hearing loss that can be caused by a one-time exposure to extremely loud sound such as an explosion or gunfire, or long-term exposure to sounds such as noisy bars or frequent ear bud use. NIHL can be temporary, however, it is more commonly permanent and irreversible.
According to this CDC survey, about 19% of adults aged 20-29 who reported having normal hearing and having no exposure to loud noises at work actually had hearing damage typically patterned as noise induced. This risk increased with age. About 27% of participants between the ages of 50-59 had this type of loss. Based on this research, one can easily conclude that Americans are losing their hearing because of their leisure or home bound activities – whether this be attending sporting events, using a leaf blower or listening to music too loudly. Acting director for the CDC, Dr. Anne Schuchat states, “Forty million Americans show some hearing damage from loud noise, with nearly 21 million reporting no exposure to loud noise at work.” She continues by acknowledging how unnerving this can be for those affected as well as their loved ones. She hopes the findings of these studies will raise awareness of the dangers of this type of hearing loss.
Meet 17-Year-Old Zach Hubbard
In many ways, Zach is a typical teenager. He is a senior at Kamiakin High School in Kennewick, Washington who enjoys spending time with his friends and target shooting. Zach Hubbard also suffers from permanent noise induced hearing loss.
Zach describes the particular target-shooting incident that left him with permanent damage. “I wasn’t able to put on adequate protection before they started firing next to me”, he states. He described his hearing as severely dulled, and that he could not hear out of one ear for two weeks.
Eventually, Zach went to a specialist for a hearing exam. He describes how it felt to learn of his hearing loss. “I did this test and they said I had low frequency and high frequency noises that were missing from my left ear,” said Zach. “I expected it, but it was also kind of shocking to be told that part of my hearing is gone.” Zach is now an avid advocate for hearing protection. He reminds readers to always over-compensate when it comes to protecting one’s hearing because “once it’s gone, it’s gone,” he states.
Dr. Aiello at Columbia Basin Hearing Center states that for Zach and other young people like him, he is “behind the eight-ball a little bit” when it comes to lifelong hearing loss, since he has already suffered some loss at such a young age.
This is just one example of why it is so important to educate young people on the dangers of loud noises and the importance of hearing protection.
Better to be Safe Than Sorry
No matter your age, it is never too late to start implementing strategies for hearing protection. Earplugs are a great place to start, whether you’re mowing the lawn or attending a concert. There are also strategies to decrease the risk of damage to your hearing through personal listening devices. Give your ears a break by following the 60/60 rule – listening to your device at 60% volume for up to 60 minutes at a time. Hearing specialists also warn that if your personal listening device can be heard from an arm’s length away, it is too loud and could be damaging your hearing.
If you have noticed some changes to your hearing or some of the common signs of hearing loss such as ringing, fullness or pain in your ears, contact us at Bay Area Hearing Services today to schedule a consultation.