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 research demonstrates 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.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools demonstrated symptoms of hearing loss. The cause? Scientists believe that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And younger people aren’t the only ones at risk.
What causes hearing loss in people under 60?
If others can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everybody. Harm to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – which is about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. The majority of mobile devices can go well above 105dB. Utilized in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.
It might seem like everybody would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. During this time, they’re listening to music, playing games, and watching video. And this will only increase over the next few years, if we’re to believe present research. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and research has shown that smartphones and other screens can stimulate dopamine release. It will become more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing may suffer because of it.
Young people are in danger of hearing loss
Clearly, hearing loss creates numerous difficulties for anyone, regardless of age. Younger people, however, face additional issues with regards to academics, after-school activities, and even job possibilities. Hearing loss at a young age causes problems with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. It also makes participating in sports much harder, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates giving directions and calling plays. Young adults and teenagers joining the workforce can experience unnecessary roadblocks due to hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also result in social issues. Kids who have damaged hearing have a harder time socializing with peers, which often leads to social and emotional problems that require therapy. Mental health issues are common in people of all ages who cope with hearing loss because they frequently feel isolated and experience anxiety and depression. Managing hearing loss often needs to go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
Preventing hearing loss when you’re young
Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes per day and at a volume 60% of maximum or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to follow. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.
It also might be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and stop using earbuds. Earbuds placed directly in the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.
Whatever you can do to minimize your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. You can’t control everything they do during school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home free of headphones. And if you do think your child is dealing with hearing loss, you should have them assessed right away.