An estimated 50% of people 75 or older have some level of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it an issue for older people. But in spite of the fact that in younger people it’s completely preventable, research shows that they too are at risk of developing hearing loss.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools showed symptoms of hearing loss. The cause? Researchers believe that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.
Why do individuals under 60 get hearing loss?
There’s a basic rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if someone else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. 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. 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 every day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. 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 trigger dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. It will become more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing might suffer because of it.
The risks of hearing loss in young people
Regardless of age, hearing loss obviously creates a number of obstacles. Younger individuals, however, face added issues regarding academics, after-school activities, 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. Early hearing loss can have a negative effect on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary obstacles in the way of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.
Hearing loss can also cause social problems. Kids who have damaged hearing have a more difficult time connecting with peers, which frequently leads to social and emotional issues that require therapy. Mental health problems are common in individuals of all ages who have hearing loss because they often feel isolated and experience anxiety and depression. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management frequently go together and this is particularly true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.
How young people can avoid hearing loss
Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes per day and at a volume 60% of maximum or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to adhere to. Even at 60%, if other people can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.
You might also want to replace the earbuds and go with 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 control what they are doing while they’re not home. And if you do suspect your child is dealing with hearing loss, you should have them evaluated right away.