An estimated 50% of people over the age of 75 have some type of hearing loss and that’s why most people think of it as an issue for older people. But in spite of the fact that in younger people it’s completely preventable, studies show that they too are in danger of experiencing hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools exhibited signs of hearing loss. The cause? Scientists believe that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.
Why do people under 60 get hearing loss?
If others can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a basic rule for teenagers and everybody. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (around the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended periods of time, your hearing can be damaged. The majority of mobile devices can go well above 105dB. In this scenario, damage begins to happen in under 4 minutes.
It might seem like everybody would know this but teenagers often have their headphones in for hours at a time. They’re playing games, watching footage, or listening to music during this time. And if the latest research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next few years. The production of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and research has demonstrated that smartphones and other screens can activate the release of dopamine. 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 multiple obstacles for anybody, regardless of age. Younger individuals, however, face added issues regarding academics, after-school activities, and even job possibilities. Students with hearing loss face a particularly difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. It also makes participating in 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 impact on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary roadblocks in front of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.
Social problems can also continue due to hearing loss. Kids who have damaged hearing have a harder time interacting with peers, which frequently leads to social and emotional issues 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 frequently 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 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. In comparison to traditional headphones, earbuds put inside of the ear canal can actually create 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Generally, though, do what you can to control your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t control what they’re doing while they’re not home. And if you do think your child is suffering from hearing loss, you should have them examined as soon as possible.