An estimated 50% of individuals over the age of 75 have some type of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it a problem for older people. But in spite of the fact that in younger individuals it’s completely preventable, studies show that they too are in danger of experiencing hearing loss.
One study of 479 freshmen across three high schools revealed that 34% of those students showed symptoms of hearing loss. The cause? Researchers suspect that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.
What causes hearing loss in individuals under 60?
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. A typical mobile device with the volume turned all the way up clocks in at around 106 decibels. In this scenario, damage starts to happen in under 4 minutes.
It may seem like everybody would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. They’re playing games, watching footage, or listening to music during this time. And this will only increase over the next several years, if we’re to believe current research. Studies show that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes harder to get them to put their screens down.
Young people are in danger of hearing loss
Clearly, hearing loss presents several challenges for anyone, regardless of age. Younger people, however, face added problems regarding academics, after-school activities, and even job possibilities. Hearing loss at a young age leads to problems with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. Sports become particularly challenging if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving directions. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental impact 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 result in social problems. Kids who have damaged hearing have a more difficult time socializing with peers, which often leads to social and emotional problems that require therapy. People who suffer with hearing loss often feel isolated and experience mental health issues like depression and anxiety. 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 prevent hearing loss
Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes a day and at a volume 60% of max or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to follow. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the sound, it needs to be turned down.
It also may be smart to change back to over-the-ear style headphones and stop using earbuds. Earbuds placed directly in the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.
In general, though, do what you can to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds during the day. You can’t control everything they do during school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home free of headphones. And if you do suspect your child is experiencing hearing loss, you should have them examined as soon as possible.