Is Our Hearing Becoming Worse Because of Technology?
With more people complaining of hearing issues than ever before, it’s no surprise that the profound changes in modern technology have been partially blamed for this increase. From continuous headphone use to blasting video games, noise pollution from traffic to excessively loud concerts, it’s surprising more people aren’t struggling to hear daily. But is modern technology truly to blame for increases in noise-induced hearing loss? We take a closer look.
The correlation between noise and hearing loss
Multiple studies have shown that loud noises and hearing loss can be linked – which will come as no surprise to the older generation, and especially those whose industrial workplaces affected their hearing decades earlier. But these days, noise-related hearing issues can be self-induced, and often the effects are so gradual we don’t notice them. Premature hearing loss in those ages around 30-50 has shown that we often don’t notice it before it’s too late. As technology becomes more integral to our lives than ever, this gradual reduction in hearing is only going to become more apparent over time.
Loud noise can directly impact our hearing, which is something we should all be aware of. And while technology certainly isn’t blameless, it’s also worth noting that noise has increased in many other areas of our lives too. From background noise on the street, the almost-deafening sound of gridlocked traffic and airplanes, passers-by blasting music, and more, it’s hard to find peace at any point in time – especially for those that live in larger towns or cities.
The technology to blame for worsening hearing
So, what technology is to blame for our hearing getting worse? The primary culprit is those two innocuous earbuds many people carry on them at all times, or over-ear headphones. Over time, this technology has evolved to be louder, more high-quality, and to drown out any outside noise – delivering music directly into our ears that overpowers everything else. Because we’ve become so keen to drown out our surroundings, we can be damaging our ears in the process. In fact, according to research, as much as 65% of people use music devices above 85 dB regularly – resulting in permanent damage to their hearing.
Alongside music, watching movies, television shows, and even YouTube videos through headphones can be equally damaging if done for extended periods. Movies, in particular, are designed to offer an all-encompassing experience. This is loud in the movie theater but can be deafening in terms of pitch changes and variations in volume for a viewer using headphones. The same applies to online videos on social media, which often don’t have inbuilt standards for volume.
Modern-day hearing loss
Modern-day hearing loss is happening to people all around you – and it could be happening to you too. It’s more than worth taking a step back and thinking about if your environment, or technology, could be causing harm to your hearing. It’s also essential to visit a doctor if you think your hearing may already have been impacted.
Hearing loss in young people
With over 90% of young people using headphones daily, it’s no surprise that this age group is suffering from hearing loss from loud music far more quickly than generations before them. While both genders are experiencing problems with hearing, it’s young men who are worse affected, with 32% of those aged between 20 and 40. Now that’s a figure that shouldn’t be ignored.
Hearing loss due to the workplace
Outside of the noise we put in our own ears, workplace auditory levels have increased far beyond what they used to be in many environments. Offices, in particular, have had a dramatic uptick in hearing problems due to the use of open-plan office designs, as opposed to sound-muffling cubicles or appropriate offices. This makes taking steps to protect your hearing even more critical in the workplace. In industrial environments, steps are taken to protect hearing, the same as with construction environments.
Hearing loss from noise and music
Hearing loss from noise and music has affected us for generations, from the invention of the first speaker. From standing too close to the speaker at rock concerts to listening too loudly to our Spotify playlist, many of us can’t escape music for more than a few hours a day. This is why noise-induced hearing loss is such a problem and should be taken seriously. Hearing loss from music can be very gradual, which means it can be difficult to spot before your hearing loss requires treatment with hearing aids.
Awareness about hearing loss
While it does seem like the results are skewed towards an increase in noise and technology causing hearing loss, it’s also true that more people are visiting the doctor than ever before over complaints with their hearing and other auditory issues. This means that more patients are registered as suffering from hearing loss, but many of these cases result in effective treatment rather than worsening hearing once awareness is there. Knowledge means that hearing loss is spotted earlier, which is an advantage to anyone who may have otherwise struggled with hearing later in life.
What can help reduce noise in a noisy world?
In a world where every gadget, device, and technology is trying to make as much noise as possible, noise-canceling gadgets may be the answer to gaining some peace without resorting to hearing loss through other methods – such as too-loud headphones. How does noise canceling work? It’s all quite scientific, but the short overview is that noise-canceling gadgets produce a specific barrier to block excess noise. This reduces the frequency and decibels of the external noise, protecting your hearing.
In terms of headphones, this means the use of sound-absorbing materials. In active noise-canceling headphones, this means the creation of their sound waves to provide interference against outside noise. As for devices that aren’t worn, these act in a very similar way, providing a ‘barrier’ against outside noise by producing noises of their own. Noise-cancelling shouldn’t be confused with using louder sound to drown out another sound, as this only works to damage your hearing over time.
Why protecting your hearing is so important
While it is natural that our hearing decreases with age, the faster decrease in our hearing due to technology is far less natural. As such, it’s vital to protect your hearing at all times – to ensure that your hearing can remain as good as possible for as long as possible. If you feel that you’re struggling to hear, the best step is to speak to a medical professional. From there, they can determine if there are any underlying causes of your hearing problems, or if you require treatment and support, for example with hearing aids.
While our hearing is certainly becoming worse because of technology, it’s possible to remedy this increasing threat by staying informed about the risks of loud noises. As well as the use of appropriate technology such as noise-canceling devices, there’s no reason why anyone shouldn’t be able to reduce the risk of hearing loss with the proper insight and information.