An estimated 50% of people 75 or over have some type of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it an issue for older people. But studies show that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s entirely avoidable.
As a matter of fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools showed signs of hearing loss. The cause? The thought is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the issue. And everyone’s at risk.
What causes hearing loss in individuals under 60?
There’s a simple rule relating to earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if somebody else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (around the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. Most mobile devices can go well above 105dB. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.
While this sounds like common sense stuff, the reality is that kids spend well over two hours every day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. During this time, they’re listening to music, playing games, and watching video. And this will only increase over the next several years, if we’re to believe current research. The production of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and studies have shown that smartphones and other screens can trigger the release of dopamine. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more challenging to get them to put down their devices.
The dangers of hearing loss in young people
Obviously, hearing loss creates several difficulties for anybody, regardless of age. Younger people, however, face added problems regarding academics, after-school sports, and even job possibilities. Students with hearing loss face an especially difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. Sports become especially challenging if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving directions. Early hearing loss can have a negative impact on confidence as well, which puts unwanted obstacles in the way of teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce.
Social problems can also persist due to hearing loss. Kids frequently develop emotional and social problems which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Mental health problems are prevalent in people of all ages who suffer from hearing loss because they frequently feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. Managing hearing loss often needs to 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 observe is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes per day at 60% or less of the maximum volume. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.
It also might be smart to change back to over-the-ear style headphones and quit using earbuds. Earbuds put directly in the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels when compared to traditional headphones.
Whatever you can do to minimize your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will help. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t regulate what they are doing while they’re not home. And you need to get a hearing test for your child if you think they might already be suffering from hearing loss.