Hearing problems are steadily increasing in the United States, with a 17 percent increase among adults between 2000 and 2006, according to the National Health Interview Survey, and more than a 30 percent increase in adolescents between 1988 and 2006, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.
According to recent New York City Health Department data, nearly a quarter of adults in the 18 to 44 age range with heavy and frequent headphone use report hearing damage.
“Though hearing loss is preventable, more and more people are having trouble hearing,” Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City commissioner of health, recently said in a statement. “With more people regularly using headphones, the message is loud and clear – New Yorkers need to turn down the volume to protect their ears.”
Using data collected from the 2011 New York City Community Health Survey, a recent report, Hearing Problems and Headphone Use in New York City, stated that about a quarter of New York City-based adults ages 18 to 44, who used loud headphones on a regular basis, were more than twice as likely to report hearing loss or other hearing problems than those who reported light to moderate use.
Farley claims that prolonged exposure to loud noises can cause irreversible inner ear damage, which can lead to hearing loss or tinnitus, characterized by ringing in the ear.
According to the report, adults ages 45 or older experienced more hearing problems overall, but younger adults with frequent loud headphone use reported a similar rate of hearing problems.
Nearly one in six of all New York City based adults reported a hearing problem, including 22 percent of those 45 and over and 10 percent of those in the 18 to 44 age range.
However, 42 percent of New Yorkers 18 and older reported listening to music with headphones at least once in an average week. At 61 percent, adults in the 18 to 44 age range were about three times more likely to listen to music with headphones than adults aged 45 and older, at 21 percent.
More than one-third of younger adults who reported frequent headphone use listened every day and of these every day listeners, 16 percent reported listening to their headphones at more than half of the maximum volume for four or more hours each day.
Five percent of young New York City based adults, or an estimated 150,000, reported heavy headphone use, compared to less than 1 percent of adults aged 45 and over, or an estimated 16,000 adults.