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At Risk: Over One Billion Young Adults Could be at Risk for Hearing Loss 

BMJ Global Health recently released a study that “estimated over one billion people between the ages of 12 – 34 are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss.” Personal listening devices such as headphones, increased cell phone use, and the prevalence of concerts, clubs, and other loud events all contribute to young adults practicing increasingly unsafe listening habits. 

Frequent exposure to loud noises has a compound effect, leaving young adults more susceptible to future hearing loss or permanent hearing loss.  

Why is Preventing Hearing Loss Important for Your Health?

In recent years, researchers have been studying the somewhat surprising connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline. They have found that hearing loss is strongly linked with an increased risk of dementia and depression. In fact, your likelihood of suffering from dementia doubles if you also experience hearing loss. Why is this the case?

Scientists think there could be several reasons for the link between hearing loss and dementia. The first hypothesis is that as increasingly muffled sounds enter your ear, your brain has to do more “work” to translate each sound. The brain is forced to use resources that would typically be allotted to memory functions. 

Another theory is that hearing loss directly affects brain structure. It can cause areas of the brain associated with receiving sound to degrade more quickly. This abnormal atrophy in the temporal lobe can make the brain more susceptible to damage commonly associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s.  

Lastly, researchers have found that experiencing hearing loss can lead to loneliness and isolation from engaging with peers and our community. Social isolation has already been shown to be correlated with an increased risk of dementia and other cognitive issues. Therefore, experiencing hearing loss issues can affect your social engagement level and increase your risk of dementia. 

Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most treatable dementia risk factors. Check out our list of safe listening practices below.

Six Tips for Preventing Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable. Listed below are tips to help you develop safe listening practices: 

  1. Turn down the volume on your devices. This tip might seem like common sense, but many people don’t realize how loud their volume settings are while using headphones. 
  2. Use technology to your advantage. Many devices and cell phones are equipped with features that can send alerts if your volume is too high.
  3. If you are at an event, stay away from loudspeakers. The back row is your friend!  
  4. Take a break from prolonged exposure to loud noises. It is recommended that you take at least 15-minute breaks.  
  5. Distance yourself from speakers or take frequent breaks in a quiet area. Foam earplugs might be a good alternative if the distance is not an option.
  6. If you have been exposed to loud environments (over 100 dB), let your ears rest (without additional exposure to loud noises) for 16-24 hours afterward. 
  7. If you want to learn how loud something is, use a decibel meter app.

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