An estimated 50% of individuals over the age of 75 have some level of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it a problem for older people. But in spite of the fact that in younger individuals it’s totally preventable, research shows that they too are at risk of experiencing hearing loss.
One study of 479 freshmen from three high schools discovered that 34% of those students showed symptoms of hearing loss. What could be causing this? Researchers suspect that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And younger people are not the only ones at risk.
What causes hearing loss in individuals under 60?
If others can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everyone. Harm to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds louder than 85 decibels – which is approximately the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. A typical mobile device with the volume turned up to the max is around 106 decibels. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause damage.
While this sounds like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend upwards of two hours every day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. 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. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and research has revealed that smartphones and other screens can activate the release of dopamine. It will be more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing may suffer because of it.
The risks of hearing loss in young people
Clearly, hearing loss creates numerous challenges for anyone, regardless of age. For younger individuals though, after school activities, sports, and job possibilities produce additional challenges. Students with hearing loss face an especially difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts. Sports become especially hard if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving instructions. 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 lead to social issues. Kids who have damaged hearing have a harder time socializing with peers, which often causes social and emotional issues that require therapy. Mental health issues are common in people of all ages who suffer from hearing loss because they often feel isolated and experience anxiety and depression. Treating hearing loss often needs to go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
How young people can prevent hearing loss
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 the sound while sitting near them, you should tell them to lower the volume until you can’t hear it.
It also may be smart to change back to over-the-ear style headphones and quit using earbuds. In comparison 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 help. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t control what they are doing while they’re not home. And you should get a hearing assessment for your child if you think they may already be suffering from hearing loss.