An estimated 50% of people over the age of 75 have some form of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it an issue for older people. But research demonstrates that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing despite the fact that it’s completely avoidable.
One study of 479 freshmen across three high schools discovered that 34% of those students showed signs of hearing loss. The cause? Researchers believe that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the issue. And younger people are not the only ones at risk.
Why do people under 60 experience hearing loss?
There’s a basic rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if someone else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. Harm to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds louder than 85 decibels – which is approximately the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. A typical mobile device with the volume turned all the way up clocks in at about 106 decibels. Utilized in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.
While this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend well over two hours a day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds in. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And this will only increase over the next several years, if we’re to believe current research. Studies show that smartphones and other screens activate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same response caused by addictive drugs. It will be more and more difficult 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 creates several difficulties for anybody, regardless of age. Younger individuals, however, face additional issues with regards to academics, after-school sports, and even job possibilities. Students with hearing loss face a particularly difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. Sports become particularly difficult if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving instructions. Early hearing loss can have a negative effect on confidence as well, which puts unwanted roadblocks in front of teenagers and young adults who are getting into the workforce.
Hearing loss can also cause social problems. Kids with damaged hearing have a more difficult time interacting with peers, which often causes social and emotional issues that require therapy. Mental health problems are prevalent in individuals of all ages who cope with hearing loss because they often feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management often go together and this is especially true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.
Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young
Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes a day and at a volume 60% of maximum or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to adhere to. Even at 60%, if other people can still hear the sound, it needs to be turned down.
It also might be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and stop using earbuds. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds put inside of the ear canal can actually produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.
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 while at school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home headphone-free. And you should get a hearing test for your child if you think they may already be suffering from hearing loss.