An estimated 50% of individuals over the age of 75 have some type of hearing loss and that’s why most people think of it as an issue for older people. But research shows that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing despite the fact that it’s totally preventable.
One study of 479 freshmen across three high schools discovered that 34% of those students showed symptoms 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 people under 60?
There’s a simple rule relating to earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if someone else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (around the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. The majority of mobile devices can go well above 105dB. Utilized in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.
It may seem as if everyone would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. During this time, they’re enjoying music, playing games, and watching video. And if current research is to be accepted, this time will only increase over the next few 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 harder to get them to put down their devices.
Young people are in danger of hearing loss
Regardless of age, hearing loss obviously creates a number of obstacles. Younger people, however, face additional issues with regards to academics, after-school sports, and even job prospects. Students with hearing loss face a really difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. It also makes playing 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 the way of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.
Hearing loss can also lead to social problems. Kids frequently develop emotional and social issues which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Individuals who suffer with hearing loss frequently feel isolated and experience mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management frequently go together and this is particularly true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.
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 max or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to observe. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the sound, it needs to be turned down.
You might also want to replace the earbuds and opt for the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds put directly in the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.
In general, though, do what you can to control your child’s exposure to loud sounds during the day. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t regulate what they’re doing while they’re not home. And you should get a hearing test for your child if you think they might already be suffering from hearing loss.