Hearing loss is commonly considered an older person’s problem – in fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of people aged 75 and older copes with some kind of hearing loss. But studies show that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s entirely preventable.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools showed signs of hearing loss. The cause? The idea is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the issue. And the young aren’t the only ones at risk.
What causes hearing loss in people under 60?
If other people can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everybody. Damage to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds louder than 85 decibels – which is about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. A standard mobile device with the volume turned all the way up clocks in at around 106 decibels. In this situation, damage begins to happen in less than 4 minutes.
It might seem like everyone would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And this will only increase over the next few years, if we’re to believe present research. The production of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and research has revealed that smartphones and other screens can stimulate dopamine release. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more challenging to get them to put down their devices.
Young people are in danger of hearing loss
Clearly, hearing loss presents numerous challenges for anybody, regardless of age. For younger individuals though, after school activities, sports, and job prospects create additional difficulties. Hearing loss at a young age causes issues with paying attention and comprehending concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. Sports become especially hard if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving instructions. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental impact on confidence as well, which puts unwanted obstacles in the way of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.
Hearing loss can also cause social issues. Kids with damaged hearing have a more difficult time interacting with peers, which often causes social and emotional problems that require therapy. Mental health problems are common in individuals of all ages who cope with hearing loss because they often feel isolated and experience anxiety and depression. Treating hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the important developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
How young people can avoid hearing loss
The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes per day at 60% or less of the highest volume. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while sitting close to them, you should have them turn it down until you can’t hear it.
It also may be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and stop using earbuds. In comparison to traditional headphones, earbuds put inside of the ear canal can actually produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Generally, though, do what you can to control your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. You can’t regulate everything they do while at school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home headphone-free. And you should get a hearing exam for your child if you believe they may already be dealing with hearing loss.