Hearing loss is normally considered an older person’s issue – in fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of individuals aged 75 and older copes with some kind of hearing loss. But despite the fact that in younger individuals it’s totally preventable, studies show that they too are in danger of developing hearing loss.
One study of 479 freshmen from three high schools found that 34% of those students showed signs of hearing loss. The cause? The idea is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the issue. And younger people aren’t the only ones at risk.
What causes hearing loss in individuals under 60?
If others can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everybody. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (about the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. Most mobile devices can go well above 105dB. In this scenario, damage starts to happen 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 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 harder and harder to get screens away from kids, and their hearing might suffer because of it.
The risks of hearing loss in young people
Clearly, hearing loss presents numerous difficulties for anybody, regardless of age. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job possibilities create additional difficulties. 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 playing sports much harder, since so much of sports involves listening to coaches and teammates giving directions and calling plays. Young adults and teenagers joining the workforce can face unnecessary roadblocks caused by hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also result in social issues. Kids who have damaged hearing have a more difficult time connecting with peers, which often causes social and emotional problems that require therapy. Mental health problems are common in individuals of all ages who have hearing loss because they often 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
The first rule to observe is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes per day at 60% or less of the highest volume. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear them while sitting near them, you should have them lower the volume until you can no longer hear it.
You may also want to ditch the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds put directly inside of the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels when compared to traditional headphones.
Generally, though, do what you can to reduce your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. You can’t regulate everything they do while at school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home headphone-free. And if you do believe your child is dealing with hearing loss, you should have them examined right away.