An estimated 50% of individuals 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 despite the fact that it’s entirely preventable.
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 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 simple rule relating to earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if somebody else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (about the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. Most mobile devices can go well above 105dB. In this scenario, damage starts to happen in less than 4 minutes.
It might seem like 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 present research. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and studies have revealed that smartphones and other screens can stimulate dopamine release. It will be harder and harder to get screens away from kids, and their hearing could suffer because of it.
Young people are at risk of hearing loss
Clearly, hearing loss creates multiple difficulties for anyone, regardless of age. Younger people, however, face added issues regarding academics, after-school sports, and even job prospects. Students with hearing loss face a particularly difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. Sports become especially hard if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving directions. Young adults and teenagers entering the workforce can encounter unnecessary obstacles due to hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also lead to social problems. Kids often develop emotional and social issues which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Mental health problems are prevalent in individuals of all ages who suffer from hearing loss because they frequently feel isolated and experience anxiety and depression. Treating hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
How young people can avoid hearing loss
The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes a day at 60% or less of the highest volume. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.
It also may be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and quit using earbuds. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually create 5 to 10 extra decibels.
In general, though, do what you can to reduce your child’s exposure to loud sounds during the day. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t control what they are doing when they’re not home. And if you do suspect your child is dealing with hearing loss, you should have them evaluated as soon as possible.