Often under-recognized is how hearing loss impacts people who are Millennials and Gen Z. It may be surprising to learn that 10% of all Millennials and 17% of Gen Z have some degree of hearing loss. It is also projected that hearing loss will continue to affect more and more young adults. This highlights the importance of understanding how hearing loss impacts people of these age groups and ways hearing health can be protected.
Causes of Hearing Loss Among Millennials and Gen Z
There are a few factors that can contribute to the development of hearing loss among Millenials and Gen Z. This includes:
- Head Injuries: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that as many as 3 million head injuries occur annually. Head injuries can range from concussions (mild forms) to traumatic brain injuries (TBI). One in three head injuries is a traumatic brain injury. Though people of all ages can experience a head injury, the most common people are men between the ages of 15-35. This group experiences the highest risk which is contributed to by engagement in contact sports – a common cause of head injuries. Head injuries can have numerous effects on overall health including causing hearing loss.
- Loud Noise: another common cause of hearing loss among Millenials and Gen Z is exposure to loud noise which can cause noise induced hearing loss. Millennials and Gen Z are at especially high risk of developing noise induced hearing loss as a result of loud noise exposure from electronic devices and social settings.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 1 billion people ages 12-35 are at high risk of developing hearing loss.
Understanding Noise Induced Hearing Loss
One time or consistent exposure to loud noise can cause noise induced hearing loss. Loud noise can permanently damage the sensory cells that are in the inner ear. These cells process incoming sound waves and convert them into electrical signals which get sent to the brain. The brain is then able to continue processing these signals, including assigning meaning to them which allows us to understand what we hear.
Sound that is above 85dB (decibels) is considered hazardous for hearing health. For perspective, this is equivalent to a hair dryer, busy city traffic, and a noisy restaurant during peak hours. Excessive noise levels can desensitize and weaken sensory cells, impairing them from processing soundwaves effectively. Common ways that Millennials and Gen Z are exposed to loud noise include:
Social activities: social life and engagement often consists of active settings that are noisy. Examples include:
- parties, loud restaurants, bars: 85-90dB
- attending a game in a sports arena or concert in a stadium: up to 110dB
Electronic devices: headphones and earbuds have become everyday items that millennials and Gen Z use to listen to music, podcasts, talk on the phone etc. Depending on the device, sound can exceed 100dB at the highest volume setting.
Exposure to these noise levels can irreparably damage the sensory cells in the inner ear. These cells do not regenerate so that means that any damage they experience is permanent. This means that noise induced hearing loss is chronic.
Tips to Protect Hearing Health
Fortuenayl, noise induced hearing loss is totally preventable. Implementing safety measures in everyday life can significantly protect your hearing health and reduce the impact of loud noise. Tips you can practice include:
- Wear hearing protection: headphones, earplugs, and earbuds are examples of hearing protection. These items create a physical barrier, reducing the amount of loud noise you absorb. It is important to wear hearing protection when you are in environments that are noisy, when committing, on airplanes etc. This mitigates the impact of loud noise.
- Invest in noise cancellation headphones: if you use headphones or earbuds often, you may want to consider investing in noise canceling headphones. Noise cancellation technology is designed to reduce background noise, preventing you from having to increase the volume when moving through noisier settings. This allows people to listen safely.
- Reduce exposure to loud noise: there are many ways to do this including taking listening breaks throughout the day, avoiding noisy settings, opting for quieter places, driving with the windows rolled up, taking alternate routes to avoid construction sites or traffic etc.
- Test hearing regularly: another great strategy is to have your hearing evaluated regularly. This allows you to monitor your hearing health and to intervene early if you notice any changes.
Contact us today to learn more about protecting and promoting your hearing health and wellness.