Why Over One Billion Young People May Be At Risk Of Hearing Loss

The BMJ Medical Journal published research that suggests millions of young people are at increased risk of hearing lost because of their usage of ear buds like Apple's popular AirPods.

By Jennifer Hollohan | Published

There is bad news for fans of AirPods and other earbud brands. A recent study is making news headlines. And it shows that young people are at increased risk of hearing loss.

Researchers published the study in the BMJ Journal on Tuesday. This journal is considered a leading medical publication. It is peer-reviewed and published weekly. 

The authors reviewed data collected from 33 studies conducted over the last two decades. What they found was shocking. According to researchers, nearly 1 billion young people risk some level of hearing loss.

Unfortunately, the researchers could not determine whether that hearing loss would be permanent or temporary. But they could determine the cause – “exposure to unsafe listening practices.” Too much exposure to unsafe music volumes will cause significant damage to young people.

The standard recommendation is to keep volumes at no more than 85 decibels. But most people listen to music and movies well outside that threshold. According to NPR, “Young people from ages 12 to 35 using devices such as MP3 players and cellphones, actively listened to content at 105 decibels, while the average noise level at entertainment venues was 104 to 112 decibels.”

hearing loss young people

And that is bad news for their future hearing prospects. The study said, “Damage from unsafe listening can compound over the life course, and noise exposure earlier in life may make individuals more vulnerable to age-related hearing loss.” So, even if you change course as an adult, it may not help.

“Temporary threshold shifts and hidden hearing loss likely serve as predictors for irreversible permanent hearing loss and may present as difficulties hearing in challenging listening environments, such as in background noise,” the study continued. Unfortunately, the problem may move beyond hearing trouble. Researchers have found that any level of hearing loss can negatively impact other areas of your life.

Young people may find themselves with less motivation and struggling in school. And for adults, “…hearing loss could be linked to a decline in the state of one’s mental health, lower income, depression, cognitive impairment and even heart problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” None of that sounds like a fun place to end up.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to mitigate the damage caused by loud music. And these steps are particularly important for young people, who still have time to turn things around. The first step is the easiest, use earplugs or hearing protection.

It may seem like stating the obvious. However, it is the easiest way to protect your hearing, especially in loud environments. Another step you can take is to stand apart from any event speakers.

We know that takes a little fun out of the whole concert experience. But taking this small step will ultimately save your hearing. Also, take a break from music or television to give your ears a chance to recover.

Finally comes the hardest step for young people. And that is to keep the device volume at a safe level. While challenging, doing this will help protect you from future hearing loss.