Loss of Hearing on The Rise For All Demographics

Man on bus wearing headphones unaware he is causing hearing loss with prolonged exposure.

Hearing loss is generally thought to be an older person’s concern – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of people aged 75 and older struggle with some type of hearing loss. But new research reveals that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s completely avoidable.

A study of 479 freshmen from three high schools conducted by The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing found that there were indications of hearing loss in 34% of them. Why is this happening? Mobile devices with earbuds or headphones connected are thought to be the most likely culprit. And younger people aren’t the only ones in danger of this.

In People Who Are Under The Age of 60, What Causes Hearing Loss?

For teenagers and everybody else, there is a basic rule for earbud volume – if others can hear your music, then the volume is too high. Injury to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds higher than 85 decibels – about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for a prolonged period of time. If the volume is turned all the way up on a typical mobile device it’s volume is about 106 decibels. Your hearing is injured in under 4 minutes in these conditions.

Though this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is kids spend as much as two hours each day using their devices, and usually they have their earbuds plugged in. They’re listening to music, playing games, or watching videos during this time. And if current research is correct, this time will only increase over the next few years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine generation in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction triggered by addictive drugs. Kids hearing loss will continue to increase because it will be increasingly challenging to get them to put their screens down.

The Challenges of Hearing Loss in Young People

Irrespective of age, it’s clear that loss of hearing offers a number of challenges. Younger people, though, have to deal with added issues regarding job prospects, after school sports, or even academics. The student is disadvantaged if they have a hard time hearing and understanding concepts in class due to early hearing loss. It also makes participating in sports much more difficult, since so much of sports involves listening to coaches and teammates give instructions and call plays. Teenagers and younger adults who are joining the workforce will have unnecessary challenges if their loss of hearing has a negative impact on their self-esteem.

Social problems can also persist because of hearing loss. Kids whose hearing is impaired have a more difficult time socializing with friends, which frequently results in social and emotional struggles that require therapy. People who suffer from hearing loss can feel separated and have depression and anxiety inevitably causing mental health issues. Dealing with hearing loss in many cases must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly during the significant developmental phases experienced by teenagers and kids.

Preventing Hearing Loss

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – offending devices should be at less than 60% of their max volume for no more than 1 hour each day. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while you are near them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can no longer hear it.

You might also want to get rid of the earbuds and choose the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds, placed directly in the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to conventional headphones.

In general, though, do everything you can to reduce your exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. You can’t control everything, so try and make the time you’re listening to music free of headphones. And, you should see us right away if you think you are already suffering from loss of hearing.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.