WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) – There’s no denying the importance of hearing; it’s one of our five senses. It connects us to friends and family. It allows us to learn, listen, and love others.
But it’s something that, for many, is in danger.
For a long time, experts have focused on the hearing loss of older people.
“For people over 65, I think its about five out of 10 that will have hearing loss. By the time we get to 80, about 8 out of 10 will have hearing loss,” Hearing Instrument Specialist Todd Beyer said.
And while the numbers are startling, experts are now shifting their focus to a different generation at risk.
The younger generation
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates around 17 percent of 12 to 19-year-olds show evidence of noise-induced hearing loss in one or both ears.
A big reason for those numbers is due to technology.
“One of the big concerns is with younger people and their ear buds. Because they put that ear bud right down tight in their ear and it holds the sound pressure in the ear canal, it will tend to do more damage,” Beyer said.
Beyer recommends never listening to your music above half volume. He also says if you can hear the music of the person sitting next to you, it’s being played too loud.
Hearing loss with jobs
Depending on your job or hobby, you may be at more risk for hearing loss as well.
Beyer says “any kind of manufacturing: farmers particularly, dentists because of the drills, truck drivers with the window” all may experience hearing loss.
Those who snowmobile, ride motorcycles, mow their lawn, use wood-working equipment, shoot guns or play music can all damage their hearing as well.
“Growing up, when I was downstairs, my mom and dad they’d always bring down earplugs they’d use for mowing the lawn,” said drum instructor Erik Juvonen. “They were always worried about my hearing.”
Juvonen has been protecting his hearing for years; as a band drummer, he knows he’s at a higher risk for losing his hearing.
While teaching 6 to 12-year-olds how to play the drums, Juvonen also makes sure his students’ ears are protected.
“A lot of their hearing — a lot of their body — is still developing, and their ears are connected to their brain, which can’t be good at such a young age” Juvonen said.
Juvonen uses electric drum sets so he can monitor the volume of the drums and keep the volume at an appropriate level.
Tips to help protect your ears
Beyer recommends being aware of how long you’re around loud noises. He says it’s not always about the volume, but the length of time.
For example, listening to loud music for two to three hours, rather than 30 minutes, can make a huge difference.
He also recommends starting early, and protecting your ears with earplugs whenever you’re around loud noises.
If you’re not proactive, hearing loss is hard to catch before it’s too late.
“For the person experiencing it, it changes so gradually usually they never notice,” Beyer said. “To them, it seems the same as yesterday, or last month, or last year.”
The long-term effects of hearing loss
For people who don’t treat their hearing loss, the damage can be incredibly extensive.
“It leads to isolation, depression, anxiety just because when they’re not comfortable with people” Beyer said. “There’s nothing worse than being in a room full of people laughing when you don’t know what they are laughing about.”
Beyer says researchers already know Alzheimer’s, dementia and hearing loss are connected. Now, he says, they are working to prove that hearing loss could possibly cause the two.