The answer is YES! The World Health Organization (WHO) published a report in 2015 explaining that damage to our hearing from noise (Noise-induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)), like loud music played directly into our ears through earbuds, is creating irreversible damage to the hearing of our young folks. What is very interesting to understand is that damage of this sort, while usually initially temporary, is cumulative. What that means is that, over years of abuse, a repeated exposure to loud sounds can result in permanent tinnitus and hearing loss. So, loud music may cause you to have temporary ringing until it “gets better”, but the auditory system doesn’t forget the damage – it adds up all the times you’ve done that and eventually, there is no getting better – you have ringing in your ears (tinnitus) and/or hearing loss from now on. This is happening to our young people at an alarming rate, and at earlier and earlier ages.
According to this report, “WHO estimates that 1.1 billion young people worldwide could be at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices. Nearly half of all teenagers and young adults (12-35 years old) in middle- and high-income countries are exposed to unsafe levels of sound from the use of personal audio devices and some 40% of them are exposed to potentially damaging sound levels at clubs, discotheques and bars” (http://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/154589)
The results of this damage on adults is life-changing in many ways, both from unwantedsounds (tinnitus) and the inability to hear wanted sounds (friends and family conversation, birds, TV). However, the many devastating effects on youngsters can be even more life-altering. As the study explains, “Noise-induced hearing loss can affect many aspects of life. In young children, it impairs language acquisition (20, 30, 77, 78). Learning disabilities, anxiety and attention-seeking behaviours are also common in children exposed to loud sounds (11). The impact of chronic noise exposure in children is reflected in lowered academic performance and outcomes as well as reduced motivation and concentration (23, 38, 79-89).”
What can be done?
Awareness of the problem is the first step. That will motivate us to take important steps to protect our young ones from exposing themselves in the first place. This would include turning down the volume on the headphones or earbuds, as well as wearing hearing protection when engaging in potentially damaging activities, e.g. concerts, drag races, hunting/shooting.
What about us older ones?
It’s true, the damage may already be done for us because of damaging behavior in our younger days. We may be suffering from hearing loss and tinnitus already. However, there is still hope. Much research is being done in both these areas to seek restorative therapies. In the meantime there are two things we can do:
1) Protect what hearing you have. Even though it may not hurt anymore, loud noises continue to damage auditory nerve cells, so wear hearing protection at every opportunity.
2) If you think you already have a hearing loss – get it checked out with a hearing care provider. Find out if you actually do have loss, and whether it’s the type that hearing aids can help address. Study after study have shown that failure to address existing hearing loss results in a much lower quality of life: accelerated dementia, predisposition to falling, depression, isolation, and so forth. Don’t let your hearing loss cut short your happiness in life.
To call for an appointment to see whether you have hearing loss, call us at (307) 254-9633. We’ll be happy to arrange a complimentary consultation.