Hearing Loss and Millennials

Hearing Loss and Millennials

Although hearing loss is common among older people, a new generation of young people are experiencing hearing loss before the age when Presbycusis would set in. This young generation of Millennials have noise-induced hearing loss at alarming rates and at extremely young ages compared with prior generations. What might be causing this sudden upswing in hearing loss?

Understanding Hearing Loss

Among the many types of hearing loss, there are two main kinds that affect the majority of people. The first is presbycusis, another name for the natural process of age-related hearing loss. As you know, the tiny hairs of the inner ear are incredibly sensitive to differences in sound. However, this same sensitivity makes the susceptible to damage from loud noise. From birth to death, our ears are incessantly inundated with sound, and it is remarkable that they remain functional as long as they do.

The other type of hearing loss, however, is noise-induced hearing loss. Whereas normal noise creates the conditions for Presbycusis, very loud noise is responsible for this other main cause of hearing loss. When the noise is too loud for too long a duration, the hairs of the inner ear are similarly damaged.

Dangerous Decibels

Many point to the development of loud technology when looking for an answer. The machines that increasingly surround us in urban and rural spaces generate sounds of all kinds, some very loud. As we are exposed to more and more noise, our ears might suffer at younger ages from this exposure. Yet, why would there be such a sudden uptick in hearing loss among young people? Workplaces have been the source of noise for many people, whether loud industrial sites and factories or even noisy restaurants. Although this might explain the effect on young people of working age, we have seen drastically higher rates of hearing loss even among teenagers. In fact, 17 percent of American teens between the ages of 12-19 have some form of hearing loss.

One answer given by many hearing specialists, researchers, and public health officials is the use of earbuds and headphones. Although these inventions have been around for some time, the creation of portable music devices did not come up about at the level of the mass-market until the 1980s, just about the time Millennials began to be born. Those portable music devices, such as the Walkman and later the Discman quickly turned into smartphones with an ever wider range of audio possibilities. Today’s Millennials can listen to music, videos, television, podcasts, and even movies on their phones. They carry these devices with them everywhere, and the duration of audio use has skyrocketed.

If headphones and earbuds were only generating sounds below 85 decibels, they would not pose such a danger. However, these devices can generate punishingly loud sound, and users seldom know now much to limit their use. If a set of headphones at maximum volume emits 100 decibels of sound, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends that they should only be used for 15 minutes at a time. However, many Millennials are using their headphones and earbuds for much longer stretches of time.

Raising Awareness & Hearing Loss Prevention

What can be done about the public health crisis of hearing loss among Millennials? This phenomenon does not only affect American youth or those in the technologically developed world. Indeed statistics generated around the globe demonstrate the same phenomenon. A number of solutions are available. Corporate leaders and policymakers can regulate the features of amplification devices, and new technology can be created that at least provides information to users about the duration and decibel level of sound.

Public awareness campaigns can alert people to the crisis that is currently underway with youth hearing. Yet, beyond these solutions at the higher levels, you can be responsible for yourself and those you love to regulate audio exposure. Make sure to inform young people about the risks they face when it comes to noise exposure.

Hearing Consultants

If you or someone you love seems to be struggling with hearing loss, don’t delay to seek out a hearing test and consultation with us at Hearing Consultants. The time is now to consider the ways you can protect your hearing!

Household Items That Could Damage Your Hearing

Household Items That Could Damage Your Hearing

Hearing loss comes in many forms, but there are two major forms that affect most people. The first is called presbycusis, which is the hearing loss incurred from the normal process of aging. The other common form of hearing loss is noise-induced hearing loss, which is an acquired condition due to years of exposure to dangerous decibels.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

As you know, the ears are exposed to sound from birth to death, and the simple addition of more years of sound exposure has an effect on the ability to hear. The tiny hair-like structures of the inner ear are designed to be sensitive to slight fluctuations in sound. However that sensitivity also makes them prone to damage. Those hairs that are used to detect high-frequency sound can become damaged with age and no longer pick up the vibrations that they pass along to the brain.

Some people work in loud places like factories where the sound of machines has a more profound damaging effect on hearing. However, noise damage can happen not only in the places we expect it, such as among musicians who spend time in loud venues and clubs, but as features of our everyday lives, as well. Let’s take a moment to consider some of the everyday sounds that can cross the threshold into damaging noise, particularly when they are heard for a long period of time.

Decibels & Noise Exposure

The crucial threshold of volume when it comes to damaging our hearing is 85 decibels. As you know, the volume or loudness of sound is measured in decibels, and some quieter sounds can only be measured in a few decibels. For instance, the sound of a watch ticking is only 20 decibels. As we climb higher, the length of time a person is exposed to a sound has to do with the amount of damage it can do. Up to 85 decibels, the use of most household items is no cause for concern. However, we have many common household items that can cause hearing loss, particularly when they are used for a sustained period of time.

Household Items and Machines That Could Harm Your Hearing

Take, for example, some cleaning and household appliances. A vacuum cleaner can be up to 85 decibels. This device is just fine to use for a short time, once a week for example. However, those who use vacuum cleaners as part of their jobs, such as hotel maintenance, should consider wearing hearing protection to limit the exposure to damaging noise.

Another common example is a lawn mower. Many lawn mowers can be rated at 90 decibels, meaning they should not be used for more than four hours at a time. However, some people whose jobs include landscaping or property management can be expected to use them for a full day. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has regulations against that type of work, but some employers can skirt their worker-protection laws.

If you or someone you know is engaged in an occupation with a high level of noise, particularly when it takes place for a long duration, you can begin by wearing your own hearing protection and proceed to contact authorities if you feel that your workplace is unsafe.

Some items are louder than these common household appliances, such as firearms, chainsaws, and heavy machinery. Each of these items should be treated on a case-by-case basis, but wearing noise-cancelling earmuffs is a wise course of action in any case.

One nearly invisible culprit that might surprise you is a pair of earbuds you might have laying around the house. These small devices are designed precisely to channel sound directly into your inner ear, and they are quite effective when you want to hear music or the sound of a video from your phone, computer, or media player. However, they should not be used at maximum volume, nor should they be worn for a long time. Earbuds can issue sounds well into the damaging range, so limit the time of use to a half hour at a time whenever possible.

Hearing Consultants

With an awareness of these household items that can cause hearing damage, you should be able to avoid the threat they pose. Careful protection and limited times of use are the two keys to preserving your hearing ability far into the future. At Hearing Consultants, we provide custom hearing protection and comprehensive hearing health care. Contact us to learn more.

September is World Alzheimer’s Month

September is World Alzheimer’s Month

With 50 million people worldwide experiencing Alzheimer’s, you might wonder why we have not yet come up with a cure. The answer lies in the mysterious and complicated web of conditions that can afflict a person with dementia, compounded with the vast and uncharted inner workings of the human brain.

Though we do not yet have a cure for Alzheimer’s, we are learning more about some of the preventative tactics that seem to have an effect in some individuals. Controlling high blood pressure, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, but there is one more surprising behavior that might work as Alzheimer’s prevention: using hearing aids.

This September, an international effort honors World Alzheimer’s Month by supporting and raising awareness about the condition, including the necessity to fund more research into causes, treatments, prevention, and a cure. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and it affects the cognition of not only elderly people.

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

Early onset Alzheimer’s can occur in people under 65 years of age, making it imperative to seek out solutions. Some of the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s include struggling to find the words for things that are otherwise common knowledge, getting lost in familiar places, having trouble dealing with finances, bills, or money, losing objects or placing them in odd locations, personality or mood changes, demonstrating uncharacteristically poor judgment, repeating the same question over and over, and taking longer to complete basic activities of daily life. Although these behaviors can be warning signs of Alzheimer’s, they are commonplace mistakes that anyone can make. Don’t be alarmed if you have found yourself performing one of these cognitive errors now and again. Those who are experiencing the warning signs of dementia will have a frequent combination of these symptoms when the condition is close at hand.

Hearing Loss and Dementia

One of the surprising links with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia comes from a seemingly distinct mental function: hearing. Researchers such as Dr. Frank Lin and his team have discovered a significant connection between hearing loss and dementia, demonstrating that those who have hearing loss are not only more likely to develop dementia in the future, but that that are also more likely to have a fast cognitive decline after the onset of the condition. With such strong evidence of a connection, we wonder what mechanism links the two in a given individual. More recent research by Hèléne Amieva, an epidemiologist and biostatistician in Boudeaux, France, found that those who use hearing aids can actually wipe out this negative effect of hearing loss on the likelihood of development dementia. Though people with untreated hearing loss are at greater risk of developing dementia, those who wear hearing aids are no more likely than their counterparts with full hearing ability.

With this evidence in mind, we have to ask ourselves precisely how dementia and hearing loss are linked. Is there a part of the brain where the two conditions are occurring at once? On the contrary, the finding about the use of hearing aids suggests that the actual act of listening is the culprit in leading to cognitive decline. Those who struggle to carry on conversations are posed with a puzzle in what they hear. Rather than full sentences or words, they only pick up random fragments of sound and syllables. You can think of this cacophony of sound as a jigsaw puzzle this is missing some of the pieces. When the brain scrambles to make sense of this mixed bag of sounds, it can lead to a serious cognitive load in the individual. Researchers are wondering now if this struggle to communicate can carry over into other aspects of thought, confusing the process of cognition and even leading to dementia.

Hearing Consultants

With World Alzheimer’s Month upon us, why not take the opportunity to investigate this connection with hearing loss for yourself and the people you love? If you have untreated hearing loss, the task is simple to schedule a hearing exam and to consult with our team at Hearing Consultants. Once you have better information about your hearing ability, you will be able to seek out assistance in the form of hearing aids, which will bring significant benefits to your overall health and well-being.