An estimated 50% of people 75 or over have some type of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it a problem for older people. But research shows that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing despite the fact that it’s totally 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? Scientists believe that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the issue. And younger people are not the only ones at risk.
Why do people under 60 experience hearing loss?
If other people can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everyone. Damage to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds louder than 85 decibels – which is about the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. The majority of mobile devices can go well above 105dB. In this situation, damage begins to occur in less than 4 minutes.
While this sounds like common sense stuff, the reality is that kids spend well over two hours every day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds in. They’re playing games, watching footage, or listening to music during this time. And if current research is to be accepted, this time will only get longer over the next few years. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and studies have demonstrated that smartphones and other screens can stimulate the release of dopamine. It will be more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing could suffer because of it.
The risks of hearing loss in young people
Obviously, hearing loss presents several challenges for anybody, regardless of age. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job possibilities create additional challenges. Hearing loss at a young age causes issues with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. Sports become especially difficult if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving directions. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on confidence as well, which puts unwanted obstacles in front of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.
Hearing loss can also result in social problems. Kids frequently develop emotional and social issues which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. People who cope with hearing loss frequently feel isolated and experience mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Treating hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the important developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
Preventing hearing loss when you’re young
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. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while sitting near them, you should have them lower the volume until you can no longer hear it.
It also might be smart to change back to over-the-ear style headphones and stop using earbuds. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Whatever you can do to minimize your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. 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 you should get a hearing examination for your child if you believe they may already be suffering from hearing loss.