Hearing loss is typically considered an older person’s issue – in fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of people aged 75 and older suffer from some form of hearing loss. But studies show that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing despite the fact that it’s totally avoidable.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools demonstrated signs of hearing loss. The cause? The concept is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the issue. And younger people aren’t the only ones at risk.
What causes hearing loss in people under 60?
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 (around the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended periods of time, your hearing can be damaged. The majority of mobile devices can go well above 105dB. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause damage.
While this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend well over two hours a day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. During this time, they’re enjoying music, playing games, and watching video. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next few years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same response 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
Clearly, hearing loss creates numerous difficulties for anyone, regardless of age. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job prospects create additional challenges. Students with hearing loss face an especially difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. Sports become especially difficult if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving directions. Early hearing loss can have a negative effect on confidence as well, which puts unwanted roadblocks in front of teenagers and young adults who are getting into the workforce.
Hearing loss can also result in social problems. Kids often develop emotional and social problems which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. People who suffer with hearing loss frequently feel isolated and experience mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Treating hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
How young people can avoid hearing loss
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 observe. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the sound, it needs to be turned down.
It also may be smart to change back to over-the-ear style headphones and quit using earbuds. In comparison to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.
In general, though, do what you can to control your child’s exposure to loud sounds during the day. You can’t regulate everything they do during school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home headphone-free. And you need to get a hearing exam for your child if you think they may already be suffering from hearing loss.