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

Normally, hearing loss is considered to be an issue only effecting older people – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of people who have hearing loss are 75 or older. But a new study shows that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing even though it’s totally avoidable.

A study of 479 freshmen from three high schools conducted by The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing revealed that 34% of those students exhibited signs of hearing loss. The reason? It’s thought that it could be from headphones and earbuds connected to mobile devices. And older individuals are also at risk.

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

For teenagers and everybody else, there is a simple rule for earbud volume – if someone else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Your hearing can be injured when you listen to noises higher than 85 decibels – about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for a prolonged period of time. A typical mobile device with the volume cranked up all the way registers at approximately 106 decibels. In this scenario, damage begins to occur in under 4 minutes.

While this seems like common sense stuff, in reality kids spend upwards of two hours every day on their devices, and usually they have their earbuds connected. During this time they’re listening to music, watching videos, or playing games. And if current research is correct, this time will only increase over the next few years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. Kids loss of hearing will continue to increase because it will be more and more challenging to get them to put away their screens.

How Much Are Young Kids at Risk of Hearing Loss?

Clearly, hearing loss offers multiple struggles to anyone, no matter what the age. But there are additional problems for young people pertaining to after school sports, job prospects, and even academics. Loss of hearing at a young age causes problems with attention span and understanding information in class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. It also makes playing sports much more difficult, since so much of sports entails listening to coaches and teammates give instructions and call plays. Early loss of hearing can have a detrimental effect on confidence also, which puts unnecessary roadblocks in the way of teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce.

Hearing loss can also lead to persistent social issues. Children whose hearing is damaged frequently end up requiring therapy because they have a more difficult time with their friends because of loss of hearing. Mental health problems are typical in people of all ages who have hearing loss because they typically feel separated and have anxiety and depression. Treating hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially in teenagers and kids during developmental years.

Preventing Hearing Loss

The first rule to adhere to is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 1 hour per day at a maximum volume of 69%. If you can hear your kids music, even if they are at 60%, you should tell them to turn down the volume.

You might also want to get rid of the earbuds and choose the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds, which are put directly in the ear, can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels in comparison to traditional headphones.

Generally, though, do whatever you can to minimize your exposure to loud noises throughout the day. If you try to listen to your tunes without headphones, that is one of the few things you can keep have control of. And, you should see us as soon as possible if you suspect you are already suffering from hearing loss.

Why wait? You don't have to live with hearing loss. Call or Text Us