An estimated 50% of individuals 75 or older have some level of hearing loss and that’s why most people think of it as an issue for older people. But research shows that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing despite the fact that it’s completely avoidable.
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 suspect that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the issue. And everyone’s at risk.
What causes hearing loss in people under 60?
There’s a simple rule relating to earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if someone else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Damage to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – which is about the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. Most mobile devices can go well above 105dB. In this situation, damage starts to take place in under 4 minutes.
While this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend upwards of two hours a day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds in. They’re playing games, watching footage, or listening to music during this time. And this will only increase over the next few years, if we’re to believe present research. Studies show that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more difficult to get them to put their screens down.
The dangers of hearing loss in young people
Regardless of age, hearing loss clearly creates a number of obstacles. Younger people, however, face added problems regarding academics, after-school activities, and even job possibilities. Hearing loss at a young age causes problems with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. Sports become particularly hard if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving instructions. Young adults and teenagers entering the workforce can experience unnecessary obstacles 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. People who cope with hearing loss often feel isolated and experience mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Managing hearing loss often needs to go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the important developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
Avoiding 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 observe. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the sound, it needs to be turned down.
You may also want to replace the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. In comparison to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Whatever you can do to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will help. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t regulate what they’re doing when they’re not home. And you should get a hearing assessment for your child if you believe they might already be dealing with hearing loss.