Nearly 20% of individuals in their 20s already have some hearing loss, and more than half of them are not losing their hearing from loud noise at work according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC found a surprising number of Americans have some hearing loss – and many don’t even know it. They may also not realize that everyday activities, such as mowing the lawn or sitting in loud traffic, could be damaging their hearing.
“Lots of people have hearing loss as a result of too much noise,” said CDC deputy director Dr. Anne Schuchat. The fact that individuals as young as 20 to 29 years old already had noise-induced hearing damage, however, is an unfortunate, growing phenomenon.
The CDC team analyzed data from a larger, national survey on the health of Americans and what they found surprised them:
- An estimated 40 million Americans under the age of 70 have hearing damage.
- About 53% of people ages 20-69 who have hearing damage from noise report no on-the-job exposure.
- About 24 percent of people ages 20-69 who report having excellent hearing have measurable hearing damage.
- About 20% of adults with no job exposure to loud sounds have hearing damage.
Hearing damage is permanent – there is no cure but there are ways to prevent further damage. It results in more than people who don’t hear well. It can also cause tinnitus, a constant ring or buzzing in the ears, and the stress surrounding losing one’s hearing can lead to anxiety and high blood pressure.
A single, one-time loud noise can damage hearing, but so can noise at lower levels over time.
“The louder a sound is, and the longer you are exposed to it, the more likely it will damage your hearing,” according to the CDC.
Damaging sounds may not be loud enough to register as dangerous, said Schuchat, as more than half of those 40 million report no exposure to loud noise. Loud concerts or constant pounding music are common sources of hearing damage, but lawnmowers, leaf blowers, woodworking saws, and other machinery can also damage hearing.
“Even being stuck in traffic with horns blowing and sirens blaring can put hearing at risk,” said Schuchat. “People may not realize that these kinds of exposures can cause permanent damage.”
The lesson from this information is that individuals should err on the side of caution when it comes to noise – utilizing earplugs when operating equipment such as lawn mowers, moving away from constant loud noises, rolling up car windows in loud traffic, and limiting time spent listening to loud music.