Hearing loss is commonly considered an older person’s issue – in fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of people aged 75 and older suffer from some kind of hearing loss. But studies show that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s completely preventable.
One study of 479 freshmen across three high schools discovered that 34% of those students showed signs of hearing loss. The cause? Scientists suspect that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And younger people are not the only ones 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. Damage to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds louder than 85 decibels – which is approximately the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. The majority of mobile devices can go well above 105dB. In this situation, damage starts to happen in under 4 minutes.
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 plugged in. 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. Research shows that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same response caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes harder to get them to put down their devices.
Young people are at risk of hearing loss
Regardless of age, hearing loss obviously creates a number of obstacles. Younger people, however, face additional problems regarding academics, after-school sports, 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. Sports become particularly difficult if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving directions. Young adults and teenagers entering the workforce can face unnecessary obstacles caused by hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also result in social problems. Kids with damaged hearing have a harder 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 problems like depression and anxiety. 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.
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. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear them while sitting close to them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can’t hear it.
It also may be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and quit using earbuds. In comparison to traditional headphones, earbuds put inside of the ear canal can actually create 5 to 10 extra decibels.
In general, though, do what you can to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. You can’t regulate everything they do while at school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home headphone-free. And if you do believe your child is suffering from hearing loss, you should have them examined right away.