An estimated 50% of people 75 or older have some level of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it an issue for older people. But research reveals that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing despite the fact that it’s totally preventable.
One study of 479 freshmen across three high schools found that 34% of those students showed symptoms of hearing loss. The cause? Researchers believe that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.
Why do individuals under 60 get hearing loss?
If others can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a basic rule for teenagers and everyone. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (around the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. A normal mobile device with the volume turned all the way up is about 106 decibels. In this scenario, damage begins to take place in under 4 minutes.
It may seem as if everybody would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. During this time, they’re enjoying music, playing games, and watching video. And this will only increase over the next few years, if we’re to believe current research. Research shows that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. It will be harder and harder to get screens away from kids, and their hearing might suffer because of it.
The risks of hearing loss in young people
Regardless of age, hearing loss obviously presents numerous difficulties. Younger individuals, however, face additional problems with regards to academics, after-school sports, and even job possibilities. Students with hearing loss face an especially difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts. Sports become particularly hard if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving directions. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental impact on confidence as well, which puts unwanted obstacles in the way of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.
Hearing loss can also result in social issues. Kids with damaged hearing have a more difficult time connecting with peers, which frequently causes social and emotional problems that require therapy. People who cope 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.
How young people can avoid hearing loss
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 highest volume. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while sitting close to them, you should have them lower the volume until you can’t hear it.
It also may be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and quit using earbuds. Earbuds placed directly into the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels when compared to traditional headphones.
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 regulate what they’re doing when they’re not home. And if you do think your child is suffering from hearing loss, you should have them assessed as soon as possible.