Hearing loss is typically considered an older person’s issue – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of people aged 75 and older copes with some form of hearing loss. But studies show that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s totally avoidable.
As a matter of fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools exhibited signs of hearing loss. The cause? The thought is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s 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 the volume is too high. If you listen to sounds louder than 85dB (around the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. The majority of mobile devices can go well above 105dB. In this scenario, damage starts to happen in less than 4 minutes.
It might seem like everyone would know this but teenagers often have their headphones in for hours at a time. During this time, they’re listening to music, playing games, and watching video. And if current research is to be accepted, this time will only increase over the next few years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. It will be more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing might suffer because of it.
Young people are at risk of hearing loss
Clearly, hearing loss creates several challenges for anyone, regardless of age. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job possibilities produce additional challenges. Hearing loss at a young age causes problems with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. It also makes participating in sports much harder, since so much of sports involves listening to coaches and teammates giving instructions and calling plays. Early hearing loss can have a negative impact on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary roadblocks in the way of teenagers and young adults who are getting into the workforce.
Hearing loss can also result in social problems. Kids often develop emotional and social issues which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Mental health problems are prevalent in individuals of all ages who cope with 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
Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes per day and at a volume 60% of max or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to adhere to. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear them while sitting close to them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can’t hear it.
You may also want to ditch the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Generally, though, do what you can to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds during the day. You can’t regulate everything they do during school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home headphone-free. And if you do think your child is experiencing hearing loss, you should have them evaluated right away.