An estimated 50% of people over the age of 75 have some level of hearing loss and that’s why most people think of it as an issue for older people. But studies show that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing despite the fact that it’s entirely avoidable.
One study of 479 freshmen across three high schools found that 34% of those students showed signs of hearing loss. The cause? Researchers suspect that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.
Why do individuals under 60 experience hearing loss?
If others can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everyone. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (about the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. A typical mobile device with the volume turned up to the max is about 106 decibels. In this situation, damage starts to occur in under 4 minutes.
It may seem like everybody 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 studies have revealed 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.
Young people are in danger of hearing loss
Obviously, hearing loss creates multiple obstacles for anybody, regardless of age. Younger individuals, however, face added issues regarding academics, after-school sports, and even job prospects. Hearing loss at a young age leads to issues with paying attention and comprehending concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. Sports become particularly hard if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving instructions. Young adults and teenagers joining the workforce can experience unnecessary obstacles caused by hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also cause social issues. Kids frequently develop emotional and social issues which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Individuals who cope with hearing loss often feel isolated and experience mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management often go together and this is especially true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.
Preventing hearing loss when you’re young
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 highest volume. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the sound, it needs to be turned down.
You may also want to replace the earbuds and opt for the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds placed directly inside of the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels when compared to traditional headphones.
In general, though, do what you can to control your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t control what they are doing when they’re not home. And you need to get a hearing examination for your child if you think they might already be dealing with hearing loss.