Florida Hearing Matters - Fort Lauderdale, FL

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

Hearing loss is typically thought to be an older person’s concern – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of people who suffer from loss of hearing are 75 or older. But new research reveals that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing even though it’s absolutely preventable.

The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently conducted research on 479 freshmen across three high schools and revealed that there were indications of hearing loss in 34% of them. Why is this happening? It’s suspected that it may be from earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices. And the young are not the only ones in danger of this.

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

There’s an easy rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – the volume is too high if other people can hear your music. Your hearing can be damaged when you listen to noises higher than 85 decibels – which is about the sound of a vacuum cleaner – over a long period of time. A normal mobile device with the volume turned up to the max clocks in at approximately 106 decibels. In this scenario, damage starts to occur in less than 4 minutes.

While you would think that this stuff would be common sense, the reality is kids spend in excess of two hours every day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds connected. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And this time is increasing every year according to current research. Studies show that dopamine is stimulated by smartphones and other devices with screens, in the brain’s of younger kids, which is exactly what addictive drugs do. Kids loss of hearing will continue to multiply because it will be increasingly hard to get them to put their screens down.

How Much Are Young Kids in Danger of Hearing Loss?

Regardless of age, it’s obvious that hearing loss offers a number of struggles. Young people, however, face added issues regarding after school sports, job prospects, and even academics. Hearing loss at a young age leads to problems with paying attention and understanding information during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. And since sports involve a lot of listening to coaches and teammates calling plays, sports become much more difficult. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on confidence also, which puts unneeded hurdles in the way of teens and younger adults who are coming into the workforce.

Loss of hearing can also cause persistent social troubles. Kids with damaged hearing commonly wind up requiring therapy because they have a more difficult time with their friends because of loss of hearing. Mental health troubles are common in people of all ages who have hearing loss because they often feel separated and experience depression and anxiety. Managing hearing loss in many cases must go hand-in-hand with mental health therapy, particularly during the important developmental phases experienced by kids and teenagers.

Avoiding Hearing Loss

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

Also older style over-the-ear headphones might be a better idea than earbuds. Earbuds, placed directly in the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to conventional headphones.

Generally speaking, though, do everything you can to limit your exposure to loud noises throughout the day. You can’t control everything, so try and make the time you’re listening to tunes headphone-free. If you do suspect you are dealing with hearing loss, you should see us as soon as possible.

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.