What’s the difference between millennials and Gen-Xers? According to Dr. Sreekant Cherukuri, a hearing specialist, “Hearing loss among today’s teens is about 30 percent higher than in the 1980s and 1990s.”
What are the factors affecting the hearing of young people today?
The World Health Organization estimates that “1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars, and sporting events.”
The first part of understanding hearing loss among young people lies in major advancements in technology in the past three decades.
“You (once) had a Walkman with two AA batteries and headphone thongs that went over your ears. At high volume, the sound was so distorted,” says Dr. Cherukuri. “Nowadays, we have smart phones that are extremely complex computers with high-level fidelity.”
There’s no denying that kids these days are on their phones and tablets for hours on end. Most of these devices have a long battery life, which means they can stream music, movies, and other media for much longer than an hour. Unfortunately, an hour of sound via earbuds or headphones is the recommended amount for young people. Hearing specialists advise that young people listen at 60% volume for no more than 60 minutes a day.
The mode of delivery is just as important. While earbuds are undeniably convenient and easy to transport, they are the most harmful way to listen to your favorite music and movies. The position of earbuds within the ear canal, near the eardrum, could cause harmful noise conditions. Hearing specialists have compared the experience of using earbuds to working in a coal mine with a drill. This small, enclosed space amplifies sound to a dangerous degree.
The solution is to use noise-canceling headphones and to limit listening to 60 minutes a day. Noise-canceling headphones block out the noise from your environment, so that you don’t feel the need to crank up the volume when listening to your favorite tunes – especially in noisy public places. If you have younger children, consider downloading a free app that limits the volume on their devices.
The World Health Organization lists another factor to hearing loss in younger generations: exposure to loud sounds at live events and venues.
Rock shows at small clubs, underground venues, dance music festivals, and sports events all have one thing in common: loud noise. At these various events, young people are exposed to very high levels of sound – upwards of 120 decibels.
Unfortunately, earplugs don’t “look cool,” which means these sounds are not dampened. To put this into context, hearing specialists warn us that 120 decibels is the level of a jet engine taking off. To put this into another common everyday context, hearing specialists advise that workers in an 8-hour shift should not be exposed to sounds louder than 85 decibels. Failure to adhere to these standards could lead to noise-induced hearing loss.
Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common forms of hearing loss, along with age-related hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss occurs gradually, over a period of time in which one is exposed to high levels of noise. If 85 decibels are the recommended daily amount for employees in loud jobs such as construction and factory work, then we can do the math. Even one hour in a small venue with loud rock music at 120 decibels is enough to permanently damage hearing.
Earplugs are the wisest method to protect your hearing
. If you have children or teens, consider buying foam earplugs in bulk for the family and bring them along or make sure your kids take them before heading out to a loud venue. Custom made ear protection
, crafted from molds of the ear, offer even more protection. If you and your family participate in regular activities that expose you to loud noise – hunting, shooting, or season tickets for your favorite sports teams – consider getting custom ear protection.
It is also important to schedule annual hearing tests to monitor your kids’ hearing abilities. For more information on hearing tests, contact us at one of our Puget Sound Hearing