Hearing loss is traditionally considered an older person’s problem – in fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of people over 75 suffer from some kind of hearing loss. 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 entirely avoidable.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools exhibited symptoms of hearing loss. What could be causing this? Researchers believe that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.
What causes hearing loss in individuals under 60?
There’s a simple rule relating to earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if somebody else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Harm to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds louder than 85 decibels – which is approximately the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. A typical mobile device with the volume turned up to the max is around 106 decibels. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.
While this seems like common sense stuff, the reality is that kids spend well over two hours a day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds in. During this time, they’re listening to music, playing games, and watching video. And this will only increase over the next several years, if we’re to believe current research. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and studies have revealed that smartphones and other screens can trigger the release of dopamine. It will be harder and harder to get screens away from kids, and their hearing could suffer because of it.
Young people are at risk of hearing loss
Regardless of age, hearing loss clearly creates numerous challenges. Younger individuals, however, face added problems regarding academics, after-school activities, and even job possibilities. 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 more difficult, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates giving directions and calling plays. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental impact on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary roadblocks in front of teenagers and young adults who are getting into the workforce.
Social issues can also persist due to hearing loss. Kids with damaged hearing have a more difficult time socializing with peers, which frequently 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. Managing hearing loss often needs to go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly during the important developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
How young people can prevent hearing loss
Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes a day and at a volume 60% of max or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to adhere to. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear them while sitting near them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can’t hear it.
You might also want to replace the earbuds and opt for the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds placed directly inside of the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.
Whatever you can do to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will help. You can’t control everything they do during school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home headphone-free. And you should get a hearing examination for your child if you think they may already be dealing with hearing loss.