There’s an Increased Risk of Hearing Loss in Young People

3 min read  |  February 28, 2023  | 
Disponible en Español |

Hearing loss is typically perceived as a problem among older people. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, the rate of hearing loss increases exponentially as people age, from 8.5% among 55- to 64-year-olds to 25% among 65- to 74-year-olds to 50% among those 75 or older. 

Considering that, you may think that those in the younger age brackets may not have to worry about hearing loss. But new evidence from the BMJ Global Health journal indicates that younger people may be at a greater risk than they realize. 

According to research published in late 2022, over 1 billion people worldwide, aged 12-34, may be at risk of hearing loss. 

The primary reasons for this enhanced risk?

  • unsafe listening practices related to personal listening devices (headphones, earbuds, etc.)
  • a high volume at loud music venues

Denise Laffitte López, Au.D., an audiologist with the University of Miami Ear Institute, was concerned about these findings, but after reading the research, she notes that it makes sense based on her own clinical experiences. 

“I definitely think we are seeing more young people come into the clinic in their early 40s or sometimes even in their 30s,” she says.

“They’re often having difficulty understanding speech in loud environments and similar hearing issues. Considering the theme of World Hearing Day is ‘Ear and hearing care for all,’ this is a perfect time to shed light on this issue that younger people may need hearing attention, as well.” 

Fortunately, a lot of hearing loss concerns among the young can be prevented or avoided by taking some basic safety measures.

For example, listening to headphones or earbuds at a reasonable volume is one of the easiest ways to avoid these issues. 

“Most smartphones have headphone safety settings that can notify you if you’re listening too loudly,” she says.

When it comes to loud nights out, Dr. Laffitte López says that young people should protect their ears with earplugs. The basic foam ones work for many scenarios, but she says that musicians or other people frequently exposed to loud noises may want to investigate noise-filtering earplugs. Several options are available through sources such as Amazon or other retailers. 

“We also sell custom noise-filtering earplugs in our clinic,” says Dr. Lafitte López. 

Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is one of the first warning signs of hearing loss. 

Dr. Laffitte López says that this is a telltale sign that your ears have been exposed to loud noises, and it’s time to take corrective action before things get worse. 

Get your hearing checked if you:

  • have trouble understanding others when background noise is present
  • often ask people to repeat themselves
  • have to turn up the TV to higher volumes to hear it well

Young people may be hesitant to address hearing issues, thinking that they’re too young to be experiencing them. But Dr. Laffitte López says it’s important to seek expert advice. 

“Untreated hearing loss can lead to other negative effects, such as social isolation, avoiding certain interactions, and even depression and cognitive decline over time,” she says. “It’s certainly not an issue that you want to ignore.” 

Wyatt Myers is a contributor for UHealth’s news service.

Tags: Dr Denise Laffitte López, hearing aids, hearing experts in South Florida, hearing impaired, hearing loss statistics, otolaryngology in Miami, otolaryngology in South Florida, people with hearing loss, prevalence of hearing loss, sound waves

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