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Move over boomers and Generation X. Millennials and Gen Z are the future and this may give us some idea as to what to expect. While these future generations inherit the actions of the previous ones, they fortunately have the emotional strength to forge a better future. Anyone born between 1981 and 1996 is considered a millennial while Gen z ranges from 1997 to around 2010. Millennials grew up along with the internet and digital technology and have watched it progress from large classroom computers into the access and smartphone tech we all know today. Generation Z, also known as zoomers (lol) grew up without a second thought about the presence of the internet and digital information access. They tend to be self-motivated and pragmatic about addressing issues from the previous generations. However, along with the access of technology in contrast with this future generation comes more access to more music and media than ever before and unfortunately safe listening practices are not always incorporated into this.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is a condition commonly conflated with old age. This is not an unfair assessment as one in three over the age of 65 suffer from age related hearing loss, due to changes in the ear as we age. By the time we reach 75, half of all people now have hearing loss. While there are several things which can contribute to hearing loss, such as use of ototoxic medications, or on-going health issues such as hypertension and diabetes, Millennials and Gen Z, we are seeing more prevalence around hearing loss due to exposure to loud noise.
How loud is Too Loud?
Under a safe listening threshold, we can listen to sounds indefinitely without suffering permanent hearing damage. However, past this range our hearing for our entire lifetime becomes at risk for damage. The volume or loudness of sound is measured in decibels (dBA) and any decibel level past 85 dBA, puts us at risk for hearing loss. It’s not just the decibel level to consider, but the length of the exposure. At 85 dBA it takes a consistent exposure for eight hours for damage to begin, but as the decibels rise the exposure time to damage quickly shrinks. For every three increments in decibels, the exposure time is cut in half. For instance, at 88 dBA the exposure time is 4 hours. By the time sounds reach 95 dBA damage can occur in under an hour!
Millennials and Gen Z at a Higher Risk of Hearing Loss for their Age
We are seeing higher instances of noise induced hearing loss in younger generations. It’s estimated that approximately 10% of Millennials and 17% of Generation Z have some level of hearing loss, and these percentages are higher than the rates of prior generations when they were of young ages. Many wonder what could be the sharp increase for these generations and most conclusions point back to noise exposure. This is in part no doubt from nightclubs, concerts, and sporting events. However, a more consistent exposure, especially through the pandemic years, has been the use of headphones hooked up to personal listening devices for video games, movies, media, and music.
Technology and Noise Exposure
What defines Millennials and gen Z from previous generations is their access and relationship with technology. Along with this comes higher usage of headphones which have the potential to deliver decibel levels as high as 105 dBA directly to the ear. At this rate hearing damage can begin in minutes. With unlimited media available, these generations now have the option to listen to media at dangerous levels for hours on end, and as common with youth, there is little regard for the effects of this level of exposure for the future.
It’s okay to listen to headphones—we just advise that you take precautions to ensure that you can avoid hearing loss for years to come. Make sure you keep the volume no higher than 60 percent of the total volume and take listening breaks every 30 minutes to an hour. This can give your ears a chance to recover and can reduce the exposure time. If you suspect that you have some hearing damage, we recommend acting as soon as possible. Start by scheduling a hearing exam with us. We can test for hearing loss and recommend what steps to take next.