An estimated 50% of people over the age of 75 have some type of hearing loss and that’s why most people think of it as an issue for older people. But in spite of the fact that in younger individuals it’s completely preventable, research shows that they too are in danger of developing hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools showed symptoms of hearing loss. The cause? Scientists believe that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the issue. And everyone’s at risk.
Why do people under 60 get hearing loss?
There’s a basic rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if somebody else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. Harm to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds louder than 85 decibels – which is approximately the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. Most mobile devices can go well above 105dB. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.
While this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend upwards of two hours a day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. During this time, they’re enjoying music, playing games, and watching video. And if the latest research is to be accepted, this time will only get longer over the next several years. Research shows that smartphones and other screens trigger 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 at risk of hearing loss
Regardless of age, hearing loss clearly creates a number of challenges. For younger individuals though, after school activities, sports, and job prospects produce additional challenges. Hearing loss at a young age leads to issues with paying attention and comprehending concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. It also makes participating in sports much harder, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates giving directions and calling plays. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental impact on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary roadblocks in the way of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.
Social problems can also persist as a result of hearing loss. Kids often develop emotional and social problems 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, particularly during the important developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
Preventing hearing loss when you’re young
The first rule to observe is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes a day at 60% or less of the highest volume. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear them while sitting near them, you should tell them to lower the volume until you can’t hear it.
You might also want to replace the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds put directly in the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels when compared to traditional headphones.
In general, though, do what you can to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds during the day. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t regulate what they’re doing while they’re not home. And if you do believe your child is experiencing hearing loss, you should have them examined right away.