An estimated 50% of people over the age of 75 have some form of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it a problem for older people. But research demonstrates that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s totally avoidable.
One study of 479 freshmen across three high schools revealed that 34% of those students showed signs of hearing loss. The cause? The concept is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.
What causes hearing loss in people under 60?
There’s a basic rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if someone else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. If you listen to sounds louder than 85dB (about 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 clocks in at around 106 decibels. In this situation, damage begins to happen in less than 4 minutes.
While this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend upwards of two hours a day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds in. They’re playing games, watching footage, or listening to music during this time. And if current research is to be accepted, this time will only get longer over the next several years. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and research has revealed that smartphones and other screens can stimulate dopamine release. It will be more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing might suffer because of it.
Young people are in danger of hearing loss
Obviously, hearing loss creates multiple obstacles for anybody, regardless of age. Younger people, however, face added issues regarding academics, after-school sports, and even job possibilities. Hearing loss at a young age leads to issues with paying attention and comprehending concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. Sports become especially difficult if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving instructions. Early hearing loss can have a negative impact on confidence as well, which puts unwanted roadblocks in front of teenagers and young adults who are getting into the workforce.
Hearing loss can also lead to social issues. Kids who have damaged hearing have a harder time socializing with peers, which frequently leads to social and emotional issues that require therapy. Mental health problems are prevalent in individuals of all ages who cope with hearing loss because they frequently feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially 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 maximum volume. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear them while sitting close to them, you should have them turn it down until you can’t hear it.
You might also want to ditch the earbuds and opt for the older style over-the-ear headphones. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually create 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Whatever you can do to limit 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 while they’re not home. And you need to get a hearing exam for your child if you think they might already be dealing with hearing loss.