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 an issue for older people. But studies show that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s entirely preventable.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools showed symptoms of hearing loss. What could be causing this? The thought is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.
Why do people under 60 experience hearing loss?
If others can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everyone. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (around the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. A standard mobile device with the volume turned all the way up clocks in at around 106 decibels. Utilized in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.
While this seems like common sense stuff, the reality is that kids spend upwards of two hours a day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only increase over the next few years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same response caused by addictive drugs. It will become harder and harder to get screens away from kids, and their hearing could suffer because of it.
Young people are in danger of hearing loss
Clearly, hearing loss creates numerous difficulties for anybody, regardless of age. Younger individuals, however, face additional problems regarding academics, after-school sports, and even job prospects. Students with hearing loss face an especially difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. It also makes playing sports much more difficult, since so much of sports involves listening to coaches and teammates giving instructions and calling plays. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on confidence as well, which puts unwanted obstacles in the way of teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce.
Social issues can also continue as a result of hearing loss. Kids who have damaged hearing have a harder time interacting with peers, which frequently causes social and emotional problems that require therapy. Mental health problems are common in individuals of all ages who have hearing loss because they frequently feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. Treating hearing loss often needs to go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the important developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
Preventing hearing loss when you’re young
The first rule to observe is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes a day at 60% or less of the maximum volume. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while sitting near them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can no longer hear it.
It also may be smart to change 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 limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t regulate what they’re doing while they’re not home. And you should get a hearing examination for your child if you think they may already be suffering from hearing loss.