Hearing loss is traditionally considered an older person’s issue – in fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of individuals over 75 suffer from some form of hearing loss. But in spite of the fact that in younger people it’s totally preventable, studies show that they too are in danger of experiencing hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools exhibited symptoms of hearing loss. The cause? Researchers suspect that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.
Why do people under 60 get hearing loss?
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 happen when you listen to sounds louder than 85 decibels – which is approximately the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. The majority of mobile devices can go well above 105dB. In this scenario, damage starts to happen in less than 4 minutes.
While this sounds like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend well over two hours a day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds in. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only increase over the next few years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens activate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same response caused by addictive drugs. It will become more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing could suffer because of it.
Young people are in danger of hearing loss
Regardless of age, hearing loss clearly presents numerous difficulties. Younger people, however, face additional problems regarding academics, after-school sports, and even job prospects. Students with hearing loss face a particularly difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. It also makes playing sports much more difficult, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates giving directions and calling plays. Early hearing loss can have a negative impact on confidence as well, which puts unwanted obstacles in front of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.
Social problems can also persist as a result of hearing loss. Kids who have damaged hearing have a more difficult time interacting with peers, which frequently causes social and emotional issues that require therapy. Individuals who cope with hearing loss frequently feel isolated and experience mental health issues like 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 maximum or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to follow. Even at 60%, if other people can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.
You may also want to ditch the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds placed directly inside of the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels when compared to traditional headphones.
In general, though, do what you can to control your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. You can’t regulate 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 dealing with hearing loss, you should have them evaluated as soon as possible.