Young woman not protecting her hearing in a loud subway.

Hearing loss is normally considered an older person’s problem – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of individuals aged 75 and older suffer from some kind of hearing loss. But research shows that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s entirely avoidable.

As a matter of fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools exhibited symptoms of hearing loss. What could be causing this? The idea 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 people under 60?

There’s a simple rule relating to earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if somebody else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. If you listen to sounds louder than 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 up to the max clocks in at about 106 decibels. Utilized in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause damage.

It might seem as if everyone would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. They’re playing games, watching footage, or listening to music during this time. And if the latest research is to be accepted, this time will only increase over the next several years. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and studies have demonstrated that smartphones and other screens can trigger dopamine release. It will become harder and harder to get screens away from kids, and their hearing may suffer because of it.

Young people are at risk of hearing loss

Clearly, hearing loss creates numerous challenges for anyone, regardless of age. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job possibilities produce additional difficulties. 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 especially difficult if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving directions. Early hearing loss can have a negative impact on confidence as well, which puts unwanted roadblocks in front of teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce.

Hearing loss can also result in social problems. Kids often develop emotional and social problems which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Mental health problems are prevalent in people of all ages who have hearing loss because they frequently feel isolated and experience anxiety and depression. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management frequently go together and this is especially true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.

Preventing hearing loss when you’re young

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes per day at 60% or less of the highest volume. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear them while sitting near them, you should tell them to lower the volume until you can’t hear it.

It also might be smart to change back to over-the-ear style headphones and quit using earbuds. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds placed 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. You can’t control everything they do while at school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home free of headphones. And if you do think your child is experiencing hearing loss, you should have them assessed right away.

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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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