An estimated 50% of individuals 75 or over have some type of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it an issue for older people. But despite the fact that in younger people it’s totally preventable, studies show that they too are at risk of experiencing hearing loss.
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? Scientists suspect that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the issue. And younger people are not the only ones at risk.
What causes hearing loss in people under 60?
If others can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everyone. If you listen to sounds louder than 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. Utilized in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause damage.
While this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend well over two hours a day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. During this time, they’re listening to music, playing games, and watching video. And if the latest research is to be accepted, this time will only increase over the next several years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens activate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same response caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more difficult to get them to put down their devices.
The risks of hearing loss in young people
Obviously, hearing loss creates several obstacles for anybody, regardless of age. Younger people, however, face additional problems with regards to academics, after-school sports, and even job possibilities. Hearing loss at a young age leads to issues with paying attention and understanding 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. 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.
Social problems can also persist due to hearing loss. Kids with damaged hearing have a more difficult time interacting with peers, which often leads to social and emotional issues that require therapy. Individuals who cope with hearing loss often feel isolated and experience mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young
Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes a day and at a volume 60% of maximum or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to follow. 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 no longer hear it.
You may also want to ditch the earbuds and opt for the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds put directly in the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels when compared to traditional headphones.
In general, though, do what you can to reduce 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 are doing when they’re not home. And if you do believe your child is experiencing hearing loss, you should have them examined right away.