Man on bus wearing headphones unaware he is causing hearing loss with prolonged exposure.

Generally, hearing loss is thought of as a problem only impacting older people – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that about 50% of people who have loss of hearing are 75 or older. But new research reveals that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s absolutely preventable.

A study of 479 freshmen from three high schools carried out by The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing revealed that 34% of those students showed signs of hearing loss. The cause? It’s thought that it could be the result of earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices. And younger people are not the only ones in danger of this.

What is The Cause of Hearing Loss in People Under 60?

There’s a very simple rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – it’s too loud if others can hear your music. Your hearing can be injured when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – which is approximately the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for a prolonged period of time. A typical mobile device with the volume cranked up to the max registers at approximately 106 decibels. In this scenario, injury begins to develop in under 4 minutes.

Though this sounds like common sense stuff, the truth is kids spend as much as two hours every day on their devices, and normally they have their earbuds connected. During this time they’re listening to music, watching videos, or playing games. And if current research is correct, this time will only increase over the next few years. Studies reveal that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is exactly what addictive drugs do. Kids hearing loss will continue to increase because it will be increasingly hard to get them to put away their screens.

The Dangers of Hearing Loss in Young People

Clearly, hearing loss presents numerous difficulties to anyone, irrespective of the age. Young people, though, have to deal with additional problems concerning after school sports, job prospects, and even academics. The student is disadvantaged if they have a difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts during class because of early loss of hearing. It also makes participating in sports a lot more difficult, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates give instructions and call plays. Teenagers and young adults who are going into the workforce will have unneeded obstacles if their hearing loss has a detrimental impact on their confidence.

Loss of hearing can also result in persistent social troubles. Kids whose hearing is damaged have a harder time interacting with friends, which frequently leads to emotional and social issues that require therapy. People who suffer from loss of hearing can feel separated and have anxiety and depression inevitably leading to mental health problems. Mental health therapies and hearing loss management often go hand in hand, especially during the significant developmental periods experienced by teenagers and kids.

Avoiding Hearing Loss

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 1 hour per day at 60% or less of the maximum volume. If you can hear your kids music, even if they are at 60%, you need to tell them to turn the volume down.

You might also choose to say goodbye to the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Traditional headphones can generate almost 10% less decibels compared to in-ear models.

Generally speaking, though, do whatever you can to limit your exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. If you try to listen to your music without headphones, that is one of the few things you can control. And, see us immediately if you suspect you are already suffering from hearing loss.

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