Along with advancements of technology, millennials have a much easier time finding information and staying in touch. However, at the same time, there are a number of new health issues that have developed out of these technological advancements. Things that never existed in generations before, such as “text neck” or difficulties with offline relationships, now face millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000). It’s not just younger people, though. Older Americans who are looped into the latest technology are also experiencing some of these issues.
Across the board, regardless of age, one major issue faces young and old alike: hearing loss. Affecting 48 million Americans, hearing loss has been on the rise due to the use of portable electronics, earbuds, and headphones. While earbuds and headphones aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, an investment in better devices could help save your hearing
Music Anywhere, Any Time
Portable music players are not new to this century. In previous iterations of youth culture, kids wore headphones with the Sony Walkman, playing music only they could hear. However, this generation’s youth is experiencing hearing loss at a higher rate, and it’s easy to see why. While older generations ran their music on traditional batteries, kids these days are using devices running on lithium-ion battery technology, which charges faster and lasts longer. In other words, people are listening to music and other media for longer periods of time.
Even more, technology has brought major improvements to sound quality, which makes it all the more alluring to listen – and listen for longer. Earbuds, in particular, pose a great risk to hearing. Earbuds are positioned dangerously close to the eardrum. Volumes increase as much as 9 decibels when played through earbuds. This is equivalent to drilling in a coal mine. Hearing specialists recommend using over-the-ear headphones rather than earbuds, especially ones than cancel noise.
In an article from Consumer Reports, the World Health Organization estimated that “by 2050, some 900 million people around the world will have a disabling hearing loss – 93 percent more than those who do today – in part because of damaging levels of sound from personal audio devices.” Dr. Sreekant Cherukuri, an ear, nose, and throat specialist, estimates that “hearing loss among today’s teens is about 30% higher than the 1980s and 1990s.”
Even more, it was reported that “researchers from Denmark found that 1 out of 7 of the 3,000 plus 9-to-11-year olds they examined had signs of hearing loss – and said use of personal music players may be linked to hearing problems in children.”
Best Practices for Listening with Headphones
Noise-induced hearing loss is the one form of hearing loss that is 100% preventable. It does require diligence and attention to one’s experience relating to sound – and that includes the use of your personal electronic devices.
“If you’re listening to music in a quiet setting, the style of your headphone may not matter so much,” says Kevin H. Franck, Ph.D., director of audiology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear at Harvard Medical School. “But if you’re in a loud spot, noise-canceling headphones – which you reduce the amount of outside noise that seeps into your ears – may be best at preserving your hearing. (These come in over-the-ear and earbud styles, and both are equally protective.)”
Furthermore, “Noise-canceling headphones can minimize problems because you don’t have to play the headphones as loud to drown out noise,” says Maria Rerecich, director of electronics testing at Consumer Reports. “You can hear the music at a moderate level without having to blast it.”
As a general rule of thumb, hearing specialists recommend listening to music following the 80-90 rule: “If you listen at 80 of the maximum volume, do so for no more than 90 minutes per day.”
Get Your Hearing Tested
In the same way you would get an annual physical or eye exam, schedule in a hearing test. It is recommended for people over 50 to take an annual hearing test. Hearing tests are simple and painless, and they provide you with important information about your hearing abilities – regardless of your age. It is never too early to begin good hearing health practices. Invest in your hearing health by upgrading to a better pair of noise-canceling headphones – and by getting your hearing tested today. To schedule an appointment, contact us at Exceptional Hearing Care.