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

Hearing loss is traditionally considered an older person’s issue – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of individuals aged 75 and up suffer from some kind of hearing loss. And though it’s often completely preventable, a new study shows a shocking number of young people are losing their hearing.

A study of 479 freshmen from three high schools carried out by The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing discovered that there were indications of hearing loss in 34% of them. The cause? Mobile devices with headphones or earbuds connected are believed to be the most likely culprit. And younger people aren’t the only ones at risk.

What Causes Hearing Loss in People Below The Age of 60?

There’s an easy rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and all other people – it’s too loud if others can hear your music. Harm to your hearing can happen when you listen to noises higher than 85 decibels – which is approximately the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for a prolonged time period. A normal mobile device with the volume turned up all the way clocks in at around 106 decibels. In this circumstance, damage begins to develop in under 4 minutes.

While you might think that this stuff would be common sense, the reality is kids spend upwards of two hours each day using their devices, and ordinarily they have their earbuds plugged in. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And this time is getting longer every year according to current research. Studies show that dopamine is activated by smartphones and other devices with screens, in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction triggered by addictive drugs. It will be increasingly difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing may suffer because of it.

How Much Are Young Kids in Danger of Hearing Loss?

Irrespective of age, it’s clear that loss of hearing presents a number of challenges. But there are additional problems for young people regarding after school sports, job prospects, or even academics. Hearing loss at a young age leads to issues with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. It also makes playing sports a lot more challenging, since so much of sports entails listening to teammates and coaches give instructions and call plays. Teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce will have unnecessary obstacles if their hearing loss has a detrimental effect on their self-esteem.

Social problems can also continue due to hearing loss. Kids with damaged hearing often wind up needing therapy because they have a more difficult time with their peers due to loss of hearing. People who have loss of hearing can feel isolated and have depression and anxiety inevitably causing mental health problems. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management often go hand in hand, especially in kids and teenagers during formative years.

Avoiding Hearing Loss

The first rule to adhere to is the 60/60 rule – offending devices should be at less than 60% of their maximum volume for no more than 1 hour every day. If your children listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while sitting near them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can’t hear it anymore.

You may also choose 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.

Generally, though, do everything you can to reduce your exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. If you try to listen to your tunes without headphones, that is one of the few things you can control. If you do think you’re suffering from loss of hearing, you need to see us as soon as possible.

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