An estimated 50% of people over the age of 75 have some level of hearing loss and that’s why most people think of it as a problem for older people. But studies show that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing despite the fact that it’s entirely avoidable.
One study of 479 freshmen from 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 issue. And the young are not the only ones at risk.
Why do people under 60 experience hearing loss?
If other people 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 periods of time, your hearing can be damaged. A typical mobile device with the volume turned all the way up is around 106 decibels. In this scenario, damage starts to take place in under 4 minutes.
It may seem as if everybody would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And if current research is to be accepted, this time will only increase over the next few years. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and research has revealed that smartphones and other screens can activate dopamine release. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more challenging to get them to put their screens down.
The risks of hearing loss in young people
Regardless of age, hearing loss clearly presents a number of obstacles. Younger people, however, face additional problems with regards to academics, after-school activities, and even job prospects. Hearing loss at a young age causes issues with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. Sports become particularly hard if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving instructions. Early hearing loss can have a negative effect on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary roadblocks in the way of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.
Social issues can also continue due to hearing loss. 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 depression and anxiety. Treating hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly during the important developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young
Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes per day and at a volume 60% of max 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 tell them to lower the volume until you can’t hear it.
It also may be smart to change back to over-the-ear style headphones and stop using earbuds. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually create 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Whatever you can do to minimize your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will help. 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 believe your child is dealing with hearing loss, you should have them evaluated as soon as possible.