Hearing Loss Among Millennials and Gen Z

There are an estimated 48 million people in the United States affected by hearing loss. Hearing loss starts as a communication barrier but quickly affects a person’s relationships, mobility, and overall quality of life. The most common type of hearing loss is called presbycusis, also known as age-related hearing loss. Though it is the most common cause, affecting one in three people over 65 and half of those 75 years and older, it is not the only cause. While many in the baby boomer generation have hearing loss, more and more young people are also being diagnosed with hearing loss.

In fact, it has been recently identified that hearing loss among Millennials and Gen Z is around 10% for Millennials and 17% for Generation Z. Moreover, these rates are much higher than those of previous generations at the same young ages. What is the reason for this increase, and what can Gen Z and Millennials due to lower their risk?!

Understanding the Younger Generations and Their Listening Habits

Generation Z is defined as anyone born between 1997 and 2012. They identify with the digital age, climate anxiety, and a shifting financial landscape. Meanwhile, Millennials were born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s. They came of age with the birth of the internet and are digital pioneers. What defines both of these generations is the development of digital technology, and with this comes higher noise exposure rates. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.1 billion people between the ages of 12 and 35 may be at risk for hearing loss due to exposure to noise worldwide. The source of this noise is suspected to be more access to media via streaming through headphones and louder entertainment venues.

Technology and Noise Exposure

The world continues to be a louder and louder place due to increased sound levels from traffic noise, construction zones, and airplane traffic. Also, we have more access than ever before to media and information. Our questions can be immediately answered by the smartphones in our pockets. This access to information is sometimes difficult for older generations to impulse control. But for Millennials and Gen Z, it is hard even to recognize these boundaries. Hours of listening to music, podcasts, and movies at loud volumes via headphones can easily be consumed at unsafe listening levels.

Many young people don’t even realize the long-term damage. In addition, current amplification technology makes live music and sporting events louder than ever before. Concerts today are louder than any the Baby Boomers encountered! It is important to understand what safe listening levels are. Additionally, you should know the risk of noise-induced hearing loss and its long-term impact.

Understanding Safe Listening Levels

We collect sound with our ears, but hearing happens in our brains. However, high levels of noise can damage our ears’ cells. These cells transmit sound from the ears to the brain. So the damage leaves us with lasting hearing loss. Understanding safe listening practices is essential for continued hearing health as we age. It may even contribute to lower rates of age-related hearing loss. 

The loudness or volume of sound is measured in decibels. We can sustain healthy hearing below the sounds of 85 dBA. But past this point is the danger zone where our hearing begins to be at risk. It is important to understand that it is not just the level of decibels but the length of exposure. As the decibels rise, the exposure time becomes shorter. For instance, at 85 dBA, it takes eight hours of constant exposure for damage to occur. This can make a loud workplace or hobby a perfect storm for hearing damage.

Furthermore, for every increase of three decibels, the time for exposure is cut in half. By the time sounds reach 95 dBA, sounds can cause damage to our hearing in an hour. However, some concerts and headphones deliver sounds as high as 110 dBA or higher! That is loud enough to damage your hearing in 15 minutes or less.

Listen Safer

Listening safely is essential to prevent hearing loss among millennials and Gen Z! Limit your listening time to headphones and keep the volume lower than 60 percent of the potential volume. At loud events, make sure to wear hearing protection. If you suspect you have hearing loss at any age, don’t hesitate to schedule a hearing exam with us today!