Hearing loss is normally considered an older person’s problem – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of people aged 75 and older suffer from some type of hearing loss. But in spite of the fact that in younger people it’s completely preventable, research shows that they too are at risk of experiencing hearing loss.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools demonstrated symptoms of hearing loss. What could be causing this? The concept is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the issue. And younger people aren’t the only ones at risk.
What causes hearing loss in individuals under 60?
There’s a basic rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if somebody else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (about the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. A normal mobile device with the volume turned all the way up is around 106 decibels. In this situation, damage starts to happen in less than 4 minutes.
It might seem like everyone would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. During this time, they’re enjoying music, playing games, and watching video. And if current research is to be accepted, this time will only increase over the next several years. The production of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and research has revealed that smartphones and other screens can stimulate dopamine release. It will be harder and harder to get screens away from kids, and their hearing could suffer because of it.
The dangers of hearing loss in young people
Clearly, hearing loss presents numerous difficulties for anyone, regardless of age. For younger individuals though, after school activities, sports, and job possibilities create additional difficulties. Hearing loss at a young age leads to 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 joining the workforce can encounter unnecessary obstacles caused by hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also result in social issues. Kids often develop emotional and social issues which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Individuals who cope with hearing loss frequently feel isolated and experience mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management often go together and this is particularly true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.
How young people can prevent hearing loss
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 follow. Even at 60%, if other people can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.
You may also want to replace the earbuds and opt for the older style over-the-ear headphones. In comparison to traditional headphones, earbuds put inside of the ear canal can actually produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Whatever you can do to limit 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 regulate what they are doing while they’re not home. And you need to get a hearing assessment for your child if you believe they may already be suffering from hearing loss.