An estimated 50% of individuals over the age of 75 have some form of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it an issue for older people. But studies show that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s completely preventable.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools showed symptoms of hearing loss. What could be causing this? Researchers believe that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices 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. Damage to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – which is about the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. The majority of mobile devices can go well above 105dB. In this scenario, damage starts to happen in under 4 minutes.
It may seem like everyone would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. They’re playing games, watching footage, or listening to music during this time. And if the latest research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next several years. Research shows 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 may suffer because of it.
Young people are in danger of hearing loss
Regardless of age, hearing loss clearly creates numerous difficulties. Younger people, however, face added issues regarding academics, after-school activities, and even job possibilities. Students with hearing loss face a particularly difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts. It also makes playing sports much harder, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates giving instructions and calling plays. Young adults and teenagers entering the workforce can encounter unnecessary roadblocks caused by hearing loss.
Social problems can also continue as a result of hearing loss. Kids often develop emotional and social issues which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. People who cope with hearing loss frequently feel isolated and experience mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management often go together and this is particularly true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.
Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young
The first rule to observe is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes a day at 60% or less of the highest volume. If your kids 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.
You might also want to replace the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Generally, though, do what you can to control your child’s exposure to loud sounds during the day. 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 you should get a hearing exam for your child if you think they might already be suffering from hearing loss.