An estimated 50% of individuals 75 or older have some type of hearing loss and that’s why most people think of it as an issue for older people. But despite the fact that in younger individuals it’s totally preventable, research shows that they too are at risk of developing hearing loss.
One study of 479 freshmen from three high schools revealed that 34% of those students showed indications of hearing loss. What could be causing this? Researchers believe that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the issue. And everyone’s at risk.
Why do people under 60 experience hearing loss?
There’s a basic rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if someone else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. Harm 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 period of time. A standard mobile device with the volume turned up to the max is around 106 decibels. Utilized in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause damage.
While this sounds like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend upwards of two hours a day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds in. 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 increase over the next several years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same response caused by addictive drugs. It will be more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing might suffer because of it.
Young people are in danger of hearing loss
Obviously, hearing loss presents several difficulties for anyone, regardless of age. Younger people, however, face additional problems regarding academics, after-school sports, and even job prospects. 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 involves listening to coaches and teammates giving instructions and calling plays. Early hearing loss can have a negative effect on confidence as well, which puts unwanted roadblocks in the way of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.
Social problems can also persist due to hearing loss. Kids often develop emotional and social issues which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. People who suffer with hearing loss often feel isolated and experience mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Managing hearing loss often needs to go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly during the important 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 maximum or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to follow. Even at 60%, if other people can still hear the sound, it needs to be turned down.
It also may be smart to change back to over-the-ear style headphones and stop using earbuds. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.
In general, though, do what you can to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t control what they’re doing while they’re not home. And you need to get a hearing assessment for your child if you think they might already be dealing with hearing loss.