An estimated 50% of individuals over the age of 75 have some type of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it an issue for older people. But in spite of the fact that in younger individuals it’s completely preventable, research shows that they too are at risk of experiencing hearing loss.
In 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 problem. And everyone’s 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 louder than 85dB (around the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. A typical mobile device with the volume turned all the way up clocks in at around 106 decibels. In this scenario, damage begins to occur in less than 4 minutes.
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 if the latest research is to be accepted, this time will only increase over the next few years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. It will be harder and harder to get screens away from kids, and their hearing could suffer because of it.
The risks of hearing loss in young people
Clearly, hearing loss creates numerous obstacles for anyone, regardless of age. Younger individuals, however, face added issues with regards to academics, after-school sports, and even job possibilities. 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. Young adults and teenagers joining the workforce can face unnecessary roadblocks due to hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also result in social issues. Kids often develop emotional and social problems which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Mental health problems are common in people of all ages who cope with hearing loss because they often feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
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 max or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to adhere to. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.
You might also want to replace the earbuds and opt for 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.
Whatever you can do to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will help. You can’t control everything they do during school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home free of headphones. And if you do suspect your child is suffering from hearing loss, you should have them examined right away.