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

Generally, hearing loss is considered to be a problem only effecting older people – in fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of individuals aged 75 and older struggle with some form of hearing loss. But new research shows that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing even though it’s totally preventable.

The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently carried out a study of 479 freshmen from three high schools and found that there were signs of hearing loss in 34% of them. Why is this happening? It’s suspected that it could be the result of earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices. And older people are also at risk.

In People Who Are Under 60, What Causes Loss of Hearing?

For teenagers and everybody else, there is a simple rule for earbud volume – the volume is too high if others can hear your music. Your hearing can be damaged when you listen to noises above 85 decibels – about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – over a long time period. A normal mobile device with the volume cranked up to the max clocks in at about 106 decibels. Your hearing is injured in less than 4 minutes in these circumstances.

While you might think that this stuff would be common sense, in reality kids spend upwards of two hours every day on their devices, and normally they have their earbuds plugged in. They’re listening to music, playing games, or watching videos during this time. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next few years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens activate dopamine production in the brain’s of younger kids, which is the same effect caused by addictive drugs. Kids loss of hearing will continue to multiply because it will be increasingly difficult to get them to put their screens down.

How Much Are Young Kids at Risk of Hearing Loss?

Obviously, loss of hearing offers numerous struggles to anybody, no matter what the age. Younger people, however, have to deal with added issues regarding academics, after school sports, and even job prospects. The student is disadvantaged if they have a difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts in class because of early loss of hearing. It also makes participating in sports a lot more difficult, since so much of sports involves listening to teammates and coaches give instructions and call plays. Early hearing loss can have an adverse effect on confidence as well, which puts needless obstacles in the way of teens and young adults who are entering the workforce.

Hearing loss can also cause persistent social problems. Kids whose hearing is damaged commonly end up needing therapy because they have a harder time with their peers because of loss of hearing. People who suffer from loss of hearing can feel separated and have anxiety and depression inevitably leading to mental health concerns. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health therapy, especially during the important formative periods experienced by kids and teenagers.

How You Can Steer Clear of Hearing Loss?

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 1 hour a day at a maximum volume of 69%. If you’re able to hear your kids music, even if if the volume is at 60%, you should ask them to turn down the volume.

You may also choose to ditch the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds, placed directly in the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels in comparison to traditional headphones.

Throughout the day in general, you should do anything you can to reduce your exposure to loud noise. You can’t control everything, so try to make the time you’re listening to tunes headphone-free. And, you should see us right away if you suspect you’re already suffering from hearing loss.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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