Man on bus wearing headphones unaware he is causing hearing loss with prolonged exposure.

Typically, loss of hearing is considered to be a problem only effecting older people – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of people aged 75 and up struggle with some form of hearing loss. And even though it’s often totally preventable, a new study shows a shocking number of younger people are losing their hearing.

A study of 479 freshmen from three high schools conducted by The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing revealed that there were indications of hearing loss in 34% of them. The cause? Mobile devices with earbuds or headphones connected are believed to be the most likely culprit. And older individuals are also susceptible.

What Causes Hearing Loss in People Below The Age of 60?

For teenagers and everybody else, there is a simple rule for earbud volume – it’s too loud if other people can hear your music. Your hearing can be damaged when you listen to sounds higher than 85 decibels – which is about the sound of a vacuum cleaner – over a long period of time. A normal mobile device with the volume turned up all the way registers at approximately 106 decibels. In this scenario, damage starts to develop in under 4 minutes.

While you would think that this stuff would be common sense, the truth is kids spend upwards of two hours each day using their devices, and ordinarily they have their earbuds plugged in. They’re listening to music, playing games, or watching videos during this time. And if current research is correct, this time will only increase over the next few years. Studies illustrate that smartphones and other screens activate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is exactly what addictive drugs do. Kids loss of hearing will continue to multiply because it will be more and more challenging to get them to put their screens down.

The Challenges of Hearing Loss in Young People

Irrespective of age, it’s obvious that hearing loss offers countless difficulties. But there are additional problems for young people regarding academics, after school sports, and even job prospects. The student is disadvantaged if they have a difficult time hearing and understanding concepts during class due to early hearing loss. It also makes participating in sports a lot more challenging, since so much of sports entails listening to coaches and teammates give instructions and call plays. Teenagers and young adults who are going into the workforce will have unnecessary obstacles if their loss of hearing has a negative effect on their confidence.

Loss of hearing can also result in persistent social issues. Kids whose hearing is damaged commonly wind up requiring therapy because they have a harder time with their peers due to loss of hearing. People who have hearing loss can feel isolated and have anxiety and depression inevitably resulting in mental health concerns. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health therapy, particularly during the significant formative periods experienced by teenagers and kids.

How You Can Steer Clear of Hearing Loss?

The first rule to adhere to is the 60/60 rule – offending devices should be at no more than 60% of their max volume for less than 1 hour every day. If you can hear your kids headphones, even if they are at 60%, you should tell them to turn down the volume.

Also older style over-the-ear headphones may be a better idea than earbuds. Earbuds, which are put directly in the ear, can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels in comparison to conventional headphones.

Throughout the day in general, you should do everything you can to reduce your exposure to loud sound. If you try to listen to your tunes without headphones, that is one of the few things you can control. If you do suspect you are dealing with loss of hearing, you should see us right away.

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