An estimated 50% of individuals over the age of 75 have some level of hearing loss and that’s why most people think of it as an issue for older people. But studies show that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s entirely avoidable.
One study of 479 freshmen from three high schools discovered that 34% of those students showed indications of hearing loss. What could be causing this? Scientists suspect that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And the young aren’t the only ones at risk.
What causes hearing loss in individuals under 60?
There’s a simple rule relating to earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if someone else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (around the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended periods of time, your hearing can be damaged. Most mobile devices can go well above 105dB. In this scenario, damage begins to occur in less than 4 minutes.
While this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend well over two hours a day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. During this time, they’re enjoying music, playing games, and watching video. And this will only increase over the next several years, if we’re to believe present research. Research shows that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more challenging to get them to put their screens down.
Young people are in danger of hearing loss
Obviously, hearing loss presents several challenges for anybody, regardless of age. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job prospects produce additional challenges. Students with hearing loss face an especially 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. Young adults and teenagers joining the workforce can face unnecessary roadblocks due to hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also lead to social problems. Kids frequently develop emotional and social issues which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Individuals who cope with hearing loss often feel isolated and experience mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management often go together and this is especially true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.
How young people can prevent hearing loss
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 maximum volume. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while sitting near them, you should have them lower the volume until you can no longer hear it.
You might also want to replace the earbuds and opt for the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds put directly into the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.
Whatever you can do to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. You can’t control everything they do while at school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home headphone-free. And if you do think your child is suffering from hearing loss, you should have them examined as soon as possible.