Hearing loss is normally considered an older person’s problem – in fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of people over 75 suffer from some kind of hearing loss. But research shows that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s completely preventable.
As a matter of fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools showed symptoms of hearing loss. What could be causing this? The thought is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.
Why do individuals under 60 get hearing loss?
If other people can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a basic rule for teenagers and everyone. 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. Most mobile devices can go well above 105dB. In this scenario, damage begins to take place in under 4 minutes.
It might seem as if everybody 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 the latest research is to be believed, this time will only increase over the next several years. Research shows that smartphones and other screens activate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same response caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes harder to get them to put their screens down.
The dangers of hearing loss in young people
Clearly, hearing loss presents several obstacles for anyone, regardless of age. Younger people, however, face added issues with regards to academics, after-school activities, and even job prospects. Hearing loss at a young age causes issues with paying attention and comprehending 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 entering the workforce can experience unnecessary roadblocks caused by hearing loss.
Social issues can also persist as a result of hearing loss. Kids frequently develop emotional and social problems which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. People who suffer with hearing loss frequently feel isolated and experience mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Treating hearing loss often needs to go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the important developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
How young people can prevent hearing loss
The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes a day at 60% or less of the maximum volume. 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 stop using earbuds. Earbuds put directly inside of the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.
Whatever you can do to minimize your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will help. You can’t control 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 right away.