Hearing loss is typically considered an older person’s issue – in fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of people over 75 suffer from some type of hearing loss. But studies show that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s completely avoidable.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools exhibited symptoms of hearing loss. What could be causing this? Scientists believe that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And the young are not the only ones at risk.
Why do people under 60 get hearing loss?
There’s a simple rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everybody 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 time periods, your hearing can be damaged. A standard mobile device with the volume turned all the way up is around 106 decibels. In this situation, damage begins to take place in under 4 minutes.
It might seem like everybody would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next few years. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and research has shown that smartphones and other screens can trigger dopamine release. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more difficult to get them to put down their devices.
Young people are in danger of hearing loss
Clearly, hearing loss creates several challenges for anybody, regardless of age. For younger individuals though, after school activities, sports, and job possibilities create additional challenges. Students with hearing loss face a really difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. Sports become especially difficult if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving instructions. Young adults and teenagers joining the workforce can encounter unnecessary obstacles caused by hearing loss.
Social issues can also continue as a result of hearing loss. Kids often develop emotional and social issues which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Mental health issues are common in people of all ages who suffer from hearing loss because they frequently feel isolated and experience anxiety and depression. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management frequently go together and this is particularly true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.
Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young
The first rule to observe is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes per day at 60% or less of the maximum volume. 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 quit using earbuds. In comparison to traditional headphones, earbuds put inside of the ear canal can actually produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.
In general, though, do what you can to reduce your child’s exposure to loud sounds during the day. 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 you need to get a hearing exam for your child if you think they may already be suffering from hearing loss.