An estimated 50% of individuals 75 or older have some type of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it an issue for older people. 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 completely preventable.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools exhibited signs of hearing loss. The cause? Researchers suspect that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And younger people aren’t the only ones at risk.
What causes hearing loss in people under 60?
There’s a basic rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if someone else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. Harm to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds louder than 85 decibels – which is about the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. The majority of mobile devices can go well above 105dB. In this scenario, damage starts to happen in under 4 minutes.
It might seem like everybody would know this but teenagers often have their headphones in for hours at a time. During this time, they’re listening to music, playing games, and watching video. And if current research is to be accepted, this time will only increase over the next several years. Research shows that smartphones and other screens activate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more challenging to get them to put down their devices.
Young people are at risk of hearing loss
Regardless of age, hearing loss obviously presents numerous obstacles. Younger individuals, however, face additional problems with regards to academics, after-school activities, and even job prospects. Students with hearing loss face a particularly difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. It also makes participating in sports much more difficult, since so much of sports involves 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 continue as a result of hearing loss. Kids with damaged hearing have a more difficult time socializing with peers, which frequently leads to social and emotional problems that require therapy. Mental health issues are common in individuals 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, particularly during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young
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. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while sitting near them, you should tell them to lower the volume until you can no longer hear it.
You might also want to replace the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. In comparison to traditional headphones, earbuds put inside of the ear canal can actually create 5 to 10 extra decibels.
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’re doing while they’re not home. And you need to get a hearing examination for your child if you believe they may already be dealing with hearing loss.