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Why Are More Young People Losing Their Hearing?

Hearing loss is often associated with older people. Many assume difficulty hearing is just one of the effects of the aging process and that it won’t happen to them until they’re much older. However, the idea that hearing loss only affects your grandparents is a myth. It happens to young people, too, and the number of children and young adults with hearing loss has grown considerably in recent years.

The causes of hearing loss

It’s estimated that about one out of every five teenagers today has some form of hearing loss – a staggering increase of about 30 percent compared to the 1990s. Unfortunately, that number will likely continue to rise. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that 1.1 billion people between the ages of 12 to 35 years old are at risk of developing hearing loss.

So, why are so many young people in danger of losing their hearing? Although there are numerous causes of hearing loss, such as genetics or side effects of other illnesses, the main culprit is noise-induced hearing loss. In particular, it’s due to the excessive use of headphones and earbuds that are perpetually on the heads of countless young people today.

Despite all the warnings about listening to loud music, many neglect those cautionary lessons. At the same time, personal listening devices aren’t the only culprits. Going to loud concerts and bars or playing music in a band can also do damage. No matter the situation, over-exposure to loud music for extended periods certainly takes its toll, leading to the stunning number of teens and young adults already showing signs of hearing loss.

Obesity is another health condition on the rise among young people, and a study by Columbia University found a link between the two. Hearing loss was found in 15.16 percent of obese adolescents, compared to just 7.89 percent of their non-obese peers.

How to protect your hearing

The WHO study found that 60 percent of childhood hearing loss is preventable. The key is to limit situations in which hearing is jeopardized. A good strategy is the 60/60 rule: when listening to music through headphones or earbuds, keep the volume at 60 percent of its maximum volume, for only 60 minutes per day. Other strategies include wearing ear protection when at concerts and in other loud environments.

Meanwhile, the connection between hearing loss and obesity suggests that maintaining a healthy lifestyle overall can help protect your hearing health. Encourage children and teens to stay active and make nutritious food choices.

Of course, any prevention strategy should include regular hearing tests. A hearing care professional can diagnose the severity of any hearing loss and recommend the right kind of hearing aids or other treatment options. In any case, as hearing loss continues to affect the younger generation, now’s the time to act to protect your own hearing.