Hearing loss is typically considered an older person’s problem – in fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of individuals over 75 suffer from some type of hearing loss. But despite the fact that in younger people it’s completely preventable, research shows that they too are at risk of developing hearing loss.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools exhibited signs of hearing loss. The cause? Scientists suspect that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the issue. And everyone’s at risk.
Why do individuals under 60 get hearing loss?
There’s a simple 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 periods of time, your hearing can be damaged. A normal mobile device with the volume turned up to the max clocks in at around 106 decibels. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause damage.
It may seem as if everyone would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And this will only increase over the next few years, if we’re to believe present research. Research shows that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more challenging to get them to put down their devices.
The dangers of hearing loss in young people
Regardless of age, hearing loss obviously creates numerous challenges. Younger people, however, face additional issues regarding academics, after-school sports, and even job possibilities. Students with hearing loss face a particularly difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. It also makes participating in sports much harder, since so much of sports involves listening to coaches and teammates giving directions and calling plays. Young adults and teenagers joining the workforce can encounter unnecessary obstacles caused by hearing loss.
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 cope with hearing loss often feel isolated and experience mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management frequently go together and this is especially true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.
How young people can avoid hearing loss
Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes per day and at a volume 60% of maximum or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to follow. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.
It also might be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and quit using earbuds. Earbuds placed directly into the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels when compared to traditional headphones.
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 suspect your child is experiencing hearing loss, you should have them evaluated as soon as possible.