An estimated 50% of people over the age of 75 have some type of hearing loss and that’s why most people think of it as a problem for older people. But studies show that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing despite the fact that it’s entirely avoidable.
One study of 479 freshmen from three high schools discovered that 34% of those students showed symptoms of hearing loss. The cause? Researchers believe that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.
Why do individuals under 60 get hearing loss?
If others can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a basic rule for teenagers and everybody. Harm to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – which is about the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. The majority of mobile devices can go well above 105dB. Utilized in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause damage.
While this sounds like common sense stuff, the reality is that kids spend upwards of two hours a day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. During this time, they’re listening to music, playing games, and watching video. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only increase over the next several years. The production of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and studies have demonstrated that smartphones and other screens can stimulate 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 risks of hearing loss in young people
Obviously, hearing loss presents numerous obstacles for anyone, regardless of age. Younger individuals, however, face added issues regarding academics, after-school sports, and even job possibilities. Hearing loss at a young age leads to problems with paying attention and comprehending concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. Sports become particularly challenging 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 the way of teenagers and young adults who are getting into the workforce.
Hearing loss can also lead to social problems. Kids often 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. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management often go together and this is especially true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.
How young people can prevent hearing loss
The first rule to observe is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes per day at 60% or less of the maximum volume. Even at 60%, if other people can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.
It also may be smart to change back to over-the-ear style headphones and stop using earbuds. In comparison to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually create 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Whatever you can do to reduce your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t control what they are doing when they’re not home. And if you do believe your child is dealing with hearing loss, you should have them evaluated as soon as possible.