by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition
Since I became a noise activist and started learning about the dangers of noise, I have been predicting an epidemic of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in young people due to their ubiquitous use of personal music players with associated headphones or earbuds, often turned up loud enough to annoy me when they walk past. This article reports that young adults with subtle hearing loss also have brain function changes detected on functional MRI scans.
We don’t just hear sound with our ears. We have to process the information from the ear in the brain. According to this study, hearing loss makes the brain work harder.
There is a well-known association between hearing loss and dementia, with worse hearing being correlated with a greater risk of developing dementia. And it now looks like this problem starts in early adulthood, not late in life.
So unfortunately, I’m going to predict that there will not only be an epidemic of NIHL when today’s young people reach midlife–in their 40s and 50s, not in their 60s, 70s, and 80s–but there will also be an epidemic of early-onset dementia.
When will the public health authorities and regulators–the FDA, CDC, and Consumer Product Safety Commission–take necessary action to protect our young people?
Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.