Hearing loss is usually considered an older person’s problem – in fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of individuals aged 75 and older copes with some form of hearing loss. But research reveals that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s entirely preventable.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools demonstrated symptoms of hearing loss. What could be causing this? Researchers suspect that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And younger people aren’t the only ones at risk.
What causes hearing loss in people under 60?
There’s a basic rule relating to earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if someone else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Harm to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds above 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 about 106 decibels. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.
It may seem as if everyone 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 several years. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and studies have shown that smartphones and other screens can stimulate dopamine release. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes harder to get them to put down their devices.
Young people are in danger of hearing loss
Clearly, hearing loss creates numerous difficulties for anybody, regardless of age. For younger individuals though, after school activities, sports, and job prospects produce additional challenges. Hearing loss at a young age leads to problems with paying attention and comprehending concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. It also makes playing sports much harder, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates giving instructions and calling plays. Young adults and teenagers entering the workforce can encounter unnecessary roadblocks due to hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also cause social problems. Kids with damaged hearing have a more difficult time connecting with peers, which frequently leads to social and emotional problems that require therapy. 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 often go together and this is especially true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.
Preventing hearing loss when you’re young
The first rule to follow 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 them while sitting close to them, you should have them lower the volume until you can’t hear it.
You may also want to ditch the earbuds and opt for the older style over-the-ear headphones. In comparison to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually create 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Whatever you can do to minimize your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. 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 experiencing hearing loss, you should have them evaluated as soon as possible.