An estimated 50% of individuals over the age of 75 have some type of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it an issue for older people. But despite the fact that in younger individuals it’s entirely preventable, studies show that they too are at risk of developing hearing loss.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools showed 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 the young are not the only ones at risk.
Why do people under 60 experience hearing loss?
If other people can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a basic rule for teenagers and everyone. If you listen to sounds louder than 85dB (around the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended periods of time, your hearing can be damaged. A typical mobile device with the volume turned up to the max clocks in at about 106 decibels. In this situation, damage begins to happen in less than 4 minutes.
While this sounds like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend upwards of two hours a day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. During this time, they’re enjoying music, playing games, and watching video. And this will only increase over the next few 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 stimulate dopamine release. 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 presents numerous obstacles. Younger individuals, however, face additional issues with regards to academics, after-school activities, and even job possibilities. Hearing loss at a young age causes issues with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. Sports become particularly difficult if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving instructions. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary obstacles in front of teenagers and young adults who are getting into the workforce.
Hearing loss can also lead to social problems. Kids frequently develop emotional and social problems which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Individuals who suffer with hearing loss often feel isolated and experience mental health problems 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.
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. Even at 60%, if other people can still hear the sound, it needs to be turned down.
You might also want to replace the earbuds and opt for the older style over-the-ear headphones. In comparison to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually create 5 to 10 extra decibels.
In general, though, do what you can to reduce your child’s exposure to loud sounds during the day. You can’t control everything they do while at school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home free of headphones. And you need to get a hearing test for your child if you believe they may already be dealing with hearing loss.