DENVER (KDVR) — UCHealth leaders said they’re seeing an increase in young people suffering from noise-induced hearing loss.  

Hearing loss is most associated with age, but UCHealth audiologist Dr. Vinaya Manchaiah said exposure to loud noise is the second biggest risk factor. 

“In the past, we didn’t have access to listen to music for really long times, but now with the smartphones, you can listen to music for a long time and you see people wearing headphones all day long,” Manchaiah said. 

Around the world, 50% of teenagers and younger adults (12-35) are at risk of hearing loss due to recreational exposure to loud sounds, according to UCHealth leaders.  

“If you’ve lost some hearing because of noise and now you’re losing it because of age, then at a much younger age, people will have hearing loss,” Manchaiah said. 

John James suffered from noise-induced hearing loss after working in construction for 40 years.  

“It just creeps up on you slowly and it gets worse and you don’t realize how bad it is until somebody calls you out or checks you on it,” James said.  

It’s a mistake he said he hopes others won’t make.  

“You need to take care of your hearing,” James said. “It’s the same thing as taking care of your vision and taking care of yourself. You don’t get it back.”  

Manchaiah recommends limiting exposure to high volumes for long periods of time and investing in a good set of headphones that eliminate background noise, so the volume isn’t turned up to compensate.  

“Music is a really big part of life for many people,” Manchaiah said. “Don’t ever stop listening to music, but what is really important is to preserve hearing so they can listen and enjoy music throughout their life, not just now when they’re young.”   

With more people working from home and taking video calls, he said it’s also important to be aware of decibel levels in earphones. 

“If you listen to music at 90% for 10 minutes, that’s not a big deal, but if you’re listening to that level all the time then that is really problematic.” 

A good rule of thumb is to keep the volume between 50% to 60%.