Hearing loss is usually considered an older person’s problem – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of individuals aged 75 and older copes with some form of hearing loss. But in spite of the fact that in younger individuals it’s entirely preventable, research shows that they too are at risk of experiencing hearing loss.
One study of 479 freshmen across three high schools revealed that 34% of those students showed symptoms of hearing loss. The cause? Scientists believe that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the issue. And younger people aren’t the only ones at risk.
Why do people under 60 get hearing loss?
If other people can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everyone. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (about the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended periods of time, your hearing can be damaged. A standard mobile device with the volume turned all the way up is about 106 decibels. In this situation, damage begins to occur in under 4 minutes.
While this seems like common sense stuff, the reality is that kids spend upwards of two hours every day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. During this time, they’re enjoying music, playing games, and watching video. And if the latest research is to be accepted, this time will only increase over the next few years. The production of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and research has shown that smartphones and other screens can activate the release of dopamine. It will be more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing could suffer because of it.
The dangers of hearing loss in young people
Regardless of age, hearing loss obviously presents numerous difficulties. Younger individuals, however, face added issues regarding academics, after-school sports, and even job possibilities. Students with hearing loss face an especially difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. Sports become particularly challenging if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving instructions. Young adults and teenagers entering the workforce can encounter unnecessary obstacles caused by hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also cause social problems. Kids frequently develop emotional and social problems which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Individuals who suffer with hearing loss frequently feel isolated and experience mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management frequently go together and this is particularly true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.
How young people can avoid hearing loss
The first rule to follow 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 the sound while sitting near them, you should have them turn it down until you can’t hear it.
You may 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 reduce your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will help. You can’t control everything they do while at school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home headphone-free. And you need to get a hearing test for your child if you think they might already be dealing with hearing loss.