You don’t have to worry about losing your hearing until you’re old, right? Most are surprised to learn that more than 1.1 billion individuals between the ages of 13 and 35 are at risk of hearing loss on a worldwide basis, according to WHO statistics.
A study reported by the University of Manchester Centre for Audiology and Deafness produced some alarming results related to noise-induced hearing loss in persons between 18 and 27. So many of the young people in our community assume that hearing loss only affects the elderly; it is my job to raise awareness about the dangers posed to teens and young adults.
Acceptable Noise Levels and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Understanding the damage caused by noise-induced hearing loss begins with understanding the difference between an acceptable noise level and the noise levels experienced by teens and young adults at concerts and in clubs.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends only 8 hours of exposure to noise levels at 85 decibels (dBA) during a workday, cutting the duration in half for each increase of 3 dBA of noise.
So exposure to a noise level of 100 dBA should only last 15 minutes.
Most concerts and clubs expose young people to over 100 dBA and often exceed 110 dBA. Using the NIOSH formula, risking exposure to this level of sound should last less than 2 minutes (the average song lasts around 3:30).
Considering the duration of a concert or the length of time spent in a club and you have an understanding of the level of risk that hearing loss young people are under.
Dangers of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
A typical hearing loss screening conducted among young people includes pure-tone audiometry, which measures your capacity to detect quiet tones in a quiet environment.
This type of screening returns a clinically normal result in spite of the damage caused to the minute hair cells in the inner ear.
The resulting damage produces a reduced capacity of sound conduction to the brain, negatively affecting how the brain processes sound.
Damage caused by this type of hearing loss typically shows up as tinnitus (hearing a ringing or buzzing sound), decreased capacity to follow a conversation in a noisy environment and a heightened sensitivity to everyday sounds (hyperacusis).
Unfortunately, this form of hearing loss often remains untreated in teens and young adults, producing additional damage to physical, mental, and emotional health as well as possible occupational or career damage.
Preventing and Treating Hearing Loss in Young People
The simple solutions to preventing hearing loss in young people include limiting exposure to noisy environments or turning down the volume at its source.
Since neither of these is a likely scenario, the best form of prevention is the use of earplugs that are professionally designed for musicians, which reduce the overall volume of sound but do not affect the quality of the tones.
Another issue audiologist often face relates to encouraging young people to seek treatment for their hearing loss because of the stigma related to hearing aids being for the old or disabled.
Hearing aids are often associated with those bulky, noisy things worn by grandparents and great grandparents. However, thanks to micro-digital technology, modern hearing aids are small, often invisible, perform at a higher level and come with smartphone connectivity options.
Acadian Hearing Is Your Hearing Care Advocate
Undetected and untreated hearing loss produces serious negative consequences regardless of age. The team and I at Acadian Hearing are dedicated to providing the highest level of hearing care to individuals of all ages in Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana. We operate under strict CDC guidelines for in-person appointments to ensure your health and safety. If you or someone you know has been experiencing uncomfortable hearing loss symptoms, contact us, or schedule an access audiology appointment by clicking here.