How Technology Could Harm Millennials’ Hearing – And More

Hearing loss is the third most chronic health condition in the United States and millennials, those born between 1981 and 1996, are increasingly at risk due to their high technology use both at home and at work. This means, more than ever, you should put an annual hearing test at Pacific Northwest Audiology on your health-related “to-do” list – regardless of your age.

Technology is everywhere

There’s no denying that technology can streamline many daily functions, as well as keeping us connected to our house and the world! We can do things faster, better and easier, but it may be affecting our mental and physical health.

The Millennial generation grew up during the technology boom and spend hours on cellphones, iPads, laptops and Kindles every day. Although there is not a lot of hard data on what this might be doing to their health, more and more medical professionals are suggesting re-evaluating technology and its affects needs to be brought to the forefront.

Millennials also tend to wear headphones when listening to music, watching a movie or viewing a video on their phones. Listening at high volumes can, over time, affect a person’s hearing. A 2017 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 8 million people in the age range of 20 to 29 suffer from some degree hearing loss. The number jumps up for people aged 30 to 39.

Between ages 20 and 39, people experience noise at an astounding level, from concerts, nightclubs, sporting events, electronic devices to loud work environments. This noise exposure leads to tinnitus (a ringing in the ear), as well as temporary mild or permanent hearing loss. Doctors agree that Millennials need to pay more attention to decibel levels in their technology use.

Living the Technology Life

Surveys show that Millennials that are absorbed in their technology and are thus less social and more sedentary. Their weight tends to be higher than previous generations, and more and more are being diagnosed with high cholesterol, diabetes and health issues that shouldn’t be affecting them at this young age. Doctors are also noticing a connection between depression and social anxiety with the use of technology, as well as the amount of time spent on social media. The reliance on technology becomes cyclical, as researchers note: “People with social anxiety/depression are not good at expressing themselves. It is just easier to send a text.”

Dr. Jason DelCollo, a primary care physician with Crozer-Keystone Health, said in an interview that we need to unplug and relax. A Blue Cross Blue Shield Association study also looked at technology and social media using medical claims data. Their study, “Major Depression: The Impact on Overall Heath,” found a 47% increase in in major depression diagnoses from 2013 to 2016 in millennials.

Technology and pain

Young adults, said Dr. DelCollo, tend to have rounded hunched shoulders due to leaning down over their computer or phone all day, leading to a phenomenon now know as “tech neck.” He said 20 to 30-year-olds are also reporting pain between the shoulder blades as a result of the same thing. Hand surgeons and specialists are reporting millennials are coming in with tendonitis from constantly tapping and swiping on cellphones or from playing video games. Similarly, carpal tunnel syndrome, which occurs when the nerve running from the forearm to the palm is pressed or squeezed, is becoming more pervasive in Millennials. Millennials are also being injured due to falls or bumping into things as they walk and text or look at their phones. Doctors report many Millennial patients are concerned about their ability to text or play video games after hand or carpal tunnel surgery.

Cutting Back

Dr. DelCollo says we need to cut back and we need to better educate ourselves on some of the physical and mental issues associated with the excessive use of technology. And, there is a lot of variation on what Millennials consider “excessive,” doctors have reported.

Everyone, including millennials need to be aware what technology and volume can do to their hearing. Staying on the path to continued hearing health means making sure you get a hearing evaluation each year – or more frequently if you think you have issues – at Pacific Northwest Audiology.

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