An estimated 50% of people 75 or over have some type of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it a problem 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 totally preventable.
One study of 479 freshmen across three high schools found that 34% of those students showed indications of hearing loss. What could be causing this? Researchers believe that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.
What causes hearing loss in individuals under 60?
If others can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a basic rule for teenagers and everyone. Harm to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds louder than 85 decibels – which is approximately the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. A normal mobile device with the volume turned up to the max clocks in at around 106 decibels. Utilized in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause damage.
While this seems like common sense stuff, the reality is that kids spend well over two hours every day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds in. During this time, they’re enjoying music, playing games, and watching video. And if current research is to be accepted, this time will only increase over the next few years. 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 harder to get them to put their screens down.
The dangers of hearing loss in young people
Regardless of age, hearing loss clearly presents numerous obstacles. For younger individuals though, after school activities, sports, and job prospects produce additional difficulties. Students with hearing loss face an especially difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts. It also makes participating in sports much more difficult, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates giving directions and calling plays. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on confidence as well, which puts unwanted obstacles in the way of teenagers and young adults who are getting into the workforce.
Hearing loss can also lead to social problems. Kids frequently develop emotional and social issues which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Mental health problems are prevalent in people of all ages who suffer from hearing loss because they frequently feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management often go together and this is particularly true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.
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 max or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to follow. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the sound, it needs to be turned down.
You may also want to ditch the earbuds and opt for the older style over-the-ear headphones. In comparison to traditional headphones, earbuds put inside of the ear canal can actually create 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Whatever you can do to reduce your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will help. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t control what they’re doing when they’re not home. And if you do believe your child is dealing with hearing loss, you should have them evaluated as soon as possible.