An estimated 50% of people 75 or over have some form of hearing loss and that’s why most people think of it as a problem for older people. But research shows that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s completely avoidable.
As a matter of fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools showed signs of hearing loss. What could be causing this? The idea is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And the young aren’t the only ones at risk.
Why do individuals under 60 get hearing loss?
There’s a simple rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if someone else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. Damage to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – which is about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. Most mobile devices can go well above 105dB. 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 few years, if we’re to believe present research. Studies show that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same response caused by addictive drugs. It will become more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing may suffer because of it.
The dangers of hearing loss in young people
Regardless of age, hearing loss clearly creates a number of challenges. For younger individuals though, after school activities, sports, and job prospects create additional challenges. Hearing loss at a young age leads to problems with paying attention and comprehending concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. It also makes participating in sports much more difficult, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates giving instructions and calling plays. Young adults and teenagers entering the workforce can encounter unnecessary obstacles caused by hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also lead to social problems. Kids who have damaged hearing have a more difficult time connecting with peers, which often causes social and emotional problems that require therapy. People who suffer with hearing loss frequently feel isolated and experience mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Treating hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the important developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young
The first rule to follow 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. Even at 60%, if other people can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.
You might also want to ditch the earbuds and opt for the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds put directly in the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels when compared to traditional headphones.
Generally, though, do what you can to control your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. 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 think your child is suffering from hearing loss, you should have them evaluated right away.