An estimated 50% of people 75 or older have some level of hearing loss and that’s why most people think of it as an issue for older people. But research shows that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s totally avoidable.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools demonstrated symptoms of hearing loss. What could be causing this? The concept is that mobile devices with earbuds connected 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 everybody. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (about the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended periods of time, your hearing can be damaged. A typical mobile device with the volume turned up to the max clocks in at about 106 decibels. In this scenario, damage starts to happen in under 4 minutes.
It might seem like everybody would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. During this time, they’re listening to music, playing games, and watching video. And this will only increase over the next few years, if we’re to believe current research. Research shows that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. It will be harder and harder to get screens away from kids, and their hearing could suffer because of it.
Young people are at risk of hearing loss
Obviously, hearing loss presents multiple difficulties for anyone, regardless of age. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job prospects produce additional difficulties. Hearing loss at a young age causes problems with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. It also makes participating in sports much more difficult, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates giving directions and calling plays. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary roadblocks in front of teenagers and young adults who are getting into the workforce.
Social problems can also persist due to hearing loss. Kids frequently develop emotional and social issues which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Mental health issues 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, particularly during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
How young people can prevent hearing loss
Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes per day and at a volume 60% of maximum or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to adhere to. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the sound, 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 placed directly in the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels when compared to traditional headphones.
Whatever you can do to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t control what they’re doing while they’re not home. And you should get a hearing exam for your child if you believe they might already be dealing with hearing loss.