Hearing loss is commonly considered an older person’s problem – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of people aged 75 and older copes with some kind of hearing loss. But research reveals that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing despite the fact that it’s entirely preventable.
As a matter of fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools demonstrated signs of hearing loss. What could be causing this? Researchers suspect that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the issue. And younger people are not the only ones at risk.
What causes hearing loss in people under 60?
There’s a simple rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if someone else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Harm to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds louder than 85 decibels – which is approximately the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. Most mobile devices can go well above 105dB. Utilized in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.
It might seem as if everyone would know this but teenagers often 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 current research. Studies show 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
Clearly, hearing loss presents multiple difficulties for anybody, regardless of age. For younger individuals though, after school activities, sports, and job possibilities create 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 playing sports much more difficult, since so much of sports involves listening to coaches and teammates giving instructions and calling plays. Young adults and teenagers entering the workforce can experience unnecessary roadblocks caused by hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also cause social issues. Kids often 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 often feel isolated and experience 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
Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes a day and at a volume 60% of maximum or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to follow. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear them while sitting close to them, you should have them turn it down until you can’t hear it.
It also may be smart to change back to over-the-ear style headphones and stop using earbuds. Earbuds put directly inside of the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.
Whatever you can do to limit 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 exam for your child if you think they may already be suffering from hearing loss.