As we know, hearing loss can lead to social isolation, depression, and when left untreated, a greater chance of potentially developing dementia (Lin, 2021). A recent study of more than 16,000 people in Taiwan found a link between hearing loss and dementia, concluding that symptoms of hearing loss between the ages of 45 and 65 more than doubled the chance of a dementia diagnosis later in life (Liu and Tzu-Chi, 2019.). So why don’t more people have their hearing evaluated?
Part of the problem is the stigma that hearing loss only affects “older” people. However, research over the last decade has shown over and over that hearing loss is increasingly affecting a much younger age group—due largely to a love of headphones, earbuds, and noisy gigs.
Any level of sound at or over 85 dB SPL can be harmful to the ears, especially over long periods of time. Music through headphones at maximum volume is 100 to 110 dB SPL, and listening for long periods can lead to significant hearing loss. Many of us remember having a ringing in our ears after a loud concert, which most of the time did not last longer than a day or two. Imagine that level of sound for hours at a time, every day, and what it is doing to our hearing. With repeated exposure like this, our ears are less likely to be able to recover.
To prevent hearing loss from loud sounds, the conversation needs to shift from hearing loss, which connotes aging, to hearing health. Keep the volume at a reasonable level and use noise-cancelling headphones. Protect your hearing in noisy environments. Don’t drink excessively, don’t smoke, and don’t use cotton swabs!
We need to get the message out to the younger generations, as well as mid-lifers: If you don’t protect your hearing, the consequences of hearing loss have profound connotations—including a much greater chance of developing dementia.
Everett F. (2023) Why the headphone generation are at risk of dementia. (accessed April 11, 2023).
Liu C and Tzu-Chi C. (2019) Association of hearing loss with dementia. JAMA Netw Open. 2(7):e198112. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.8112.
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