Young man who isn't too old for hearing loss.

Scientists believe that seeing 20 somethings with hearing aids is about to get a lot more common.

When you think of severe hearing loss, images of a person much older than you are may come to mind. But all adult age groups are seeing a significant rise in hearing loss year over year. This further demonstrates that hearing loss isn’t an “aging problem” but a growing epidemic.

Researchers predict that within the next 40 years, rates will double for adults 20 and over. The medical community and many organizations now call this a serious public health issue. If our current trajectory holds steady, over 1 in 5 adults will have permanent hearing loss.

Let’s take a look a why experts are so concerned and what’s contributing to this issue.

Why Hearing Loss Isn’t Just About Hearing

Profound hearing loss is a terrible thing in and of itself. Everyday communication becomes challenging, frustrating and exhausting. It can cause people to stop doing what they love and withdraw from friends and family. It’s nearly impossible to be an active adult with significant hearing loss if you don’t get help.

Those with untreated hearing loss suffer from more than just diminished hearing. They’re much more likely to develop:

  • Dementia
  • Cognitive decline
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Clumsiness
  • Other concerning conditions

They’re more likely to have issues in their personal relationships and have difficulty getting basic needs met.

In addition to the personal impact, we can expect increased:

  • Healthcare costs
  • Disability rates
  • Insurance rates
  • Accident rates
  • Need for public assistance

That makes hearing loss a major challenge we need to face as a society now and in years to come.

What’s Contributing to Hearing Loss Across Generations

There are several factors contributing to the rise in hearing loss. Among them, are the rising prevalence of common diseases that increase risk like:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Obesity
  • Anxiety and unmanaged stress
  • Poor diet/exercise

More people are suffering from these and other related conditions at earlier ages, which contributes to hearing loss.

Lifestyle also plays an important role. Exposure to loud noise is on the rise in our homes, recreation and work environments. Modern technology can get loud. And we’re being exposed in more places. It’s often the younger generation who have the highest level of exposure in:

  • Factories
  • Shooting ranges
  • Bars/Clubs/Concerts
  • Gyms

On top of these, many people are choosing to take the noise with them by putting in their earbuds and turning their music way up.

A rising number of people are using painkillers either recreationally or to treat chronic pain. Long-term/frequent use of opiates, Tylenol, Advil, Aleve and aspirin have been linked to increased risk of hearing loss.

How Society Is Responding to This Health Issue

Local, national and world organizations are taking notice. They’re working to redirect this upward trend by educating the public.

Organizations like Helping Me Hear are spreading the word about:

  • Risk factors
  • Prevention
  • Latest research
  • Treatment options

We’re encouraging people to:

  • Get their hearing tested earlier
  • Know their risk level
  • Not delay getting hearing aids

Delay makes the impact of hearing loss much worse.

Researchers, healthcare providers and government organizations are looking for solutions. They’re seeking ways to bring hearing-loss related costs down. This will help increase accessibility to advanced technologies that significantly improve lives.

WHO (World Health Organization) is working with scientists and organizations to come up with more comprehensive strategies. They are combining awareness, education and health support to reduce risk in sensitive groups.

Among their contributions, they’ve developed research-based guidelines for communities. These help leadership understand the impact of noise. They explain what safe noise exposure is. They’re working with communities to reduce noise exposure to residents, and they’re furthering research on the role opiate use and abuse plays.

The VA (Veterans Affairs) is funding studies and initiatives as well. They seek to address hearing loss among a particularly high-risk group, the military.

What You Can Do

Stay informed about this developing public health issue. Take steps to slow the progression of your own hearing loss and share helpful articles with others.

Get your own hearing tested. If you find you need them, get hearing aids and proudly wear them.

Ultimately, we need to prevent hearing loss. But when you wear your hearing aids, you help people realize that they’re not alone. You bring more awareness to hearing loss in your community. Awareness brings change in attitudes, policies and actions.