Born after 1996, the oldest of Gen Z will be turning just 23 this year. Whereas Millennials of the late 80’s and 90’s are considered “digital pioneers,” who were present at the explosion of digital technology, internet and social media, Gen Z was born into a world of peak technological innovation. Gen Z came on the scene just as information was instantaneously accessible and seemingly unlimited.
For both of these generations the access to unending media has helped spread and share ideas organically online, but it has also prompted the need for these generations to self-regulate the amount of information consumed and create limits – which does not always happen. This is especially the case for Millennials and Gen Z who have much higher rates of noise induced hearing loss than previous generations. Let’s explore exactly why hearing loss is rapidly rising as a condition that doesn’t just affect seniors any longer.
Understanding Noise Induced Hearing Loss
There are many causes of hearing loss including impact to the head, exposure to certain drugs or chemicals which are ototoxic and the most common cause, age induced hearing loss. Age induced hearing loss affects half of all people over the age of 75, however noise induced hearing loss is quickly becoming more and more common for a younger generation. Noise induced hearing loss occurs when loud noise damages the tiny hair-like cells in the inner ear which transforms audio waves into electrical signals which are interpreted by the brain. These signals inform your brain about what was said or how close, from which direction and how fast the sound is approaching. Sound is measured in decibels and any decibel level over 85dB can slowly damage your hearing over time. The higher the decibel level and the longer the exposure, the faster the damage can incur.
Dangerous Decibels For a Younger Generation
Currently 17 percent of American teens between the ages of 12-19 have some form of hearing loss. The nature of noise induced hearing loss may point to the many causes, which have become increasingly more prominent. Millennials and Gen Z both have had much more access and exposure to technology than previous generations. This includes the seemingly endless streaming of social media, video games, music, movies, audio books and more. Not only do personal listening devices deliver this audio information directly to the ear at dangerous decibel levels but it can occur for hours every day, day after day. Using headphones or earbuds in this way can easily deliver decibel levels to the inner ear, causing permanent damage, which can create serious hearing loss at an earlier age than we as a society have been previously used to.
With this information it is important to pay attention to the listening habits of your children, family and friends and help to raise awareness around safe listening practices. Technology is not going anywhere so it is a good idea to learn how to use it safely. While there is a growing movement to have manufactures of personal listening devices such as MP3 players and Smartphones limit the decibel levels a device can produce on an institutional level, self-control and education about safe listening practices are essential. A good rule of thumb when listening to headphones or earbuds is to limit the volume to 60% of its potential. This can be difficult to stay consistent with, as different MP3’s can variate volume and quality. While one track may be below safe listen levels, the next track may start dangerously loud. Make sure to keep your headphones turned down so they don’t have a chance to create damage. In addition to limiting the volume it is important to take listening breaks as well. Make sure to take your headphones off and give your ears a rest for at least 15 minutes, every hour or so. This can allow your ears a chance to rest and recover.
Treating Your Hearing Loss
Hearing loss was once considered a condition which affected the elderly, but this is no longer the reality. If you are having trouble hearing the people in your life it may be a sign of noise induced hearing loss. While this may seem harmless, the longer you let hearing loss continue untreated the higher your chances become of experiencing depression, anxiety, cognitive decline and even accidents leading to hospitalization. Don’t let hearing loss get to this point. Make an appointment to test your hearing today.