Hearing Health Blog

Man on bus wearing headphones unaware he is causing hearing loss with prolonged exposure.

Hearing loss is normally thought to be an older person’s concern – in fact, it’s estimated that about 50% of people aged 75 and older struggle with some type of hearing loss. And though it’s often entirely avoidable, a new study shows an alarming number of younger people are losing their hearing.

The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently carried out a study of 479 freshmen from three high schools and revealed that 34% of those freshmen showed signs of hearing loss. The cause? It’s believed that it may be from headphones and earbuds connected to mobile devices. And older people are also at risk.

In Individuals Who Are Under 60, What Causes Hearing Loss?

For teenagers and everyone else, there is a basic rule for earbud volume – if other people can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Your hearing can be injured when you listen to noises higher than 85 decibels – about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for a prolonged time period. A typical mobile device with the volume cranked up all the way registers at around 106 decibels. In this circumstance, damage begins to occur in under 4 minutes.

While you would think that this stuff would be common sense, the truth is kids spend as much as two hours each day on their devices, and usually they have their earbuds connected. They’re listening to music, playing games, or watching videos during this time. And this time is increasing each year according to current research. Studies demonstrate that dopamine is activated by smartphones and other devices that have screens, in younger kids’ brains, which is exactly what addictive drugs do. It will be more and more difficult to get kids to put down their screens, and their hearing could suffer as a result.

The Challenges of Hearing Loss in Young People

Clearly, hearing loss presents numerous difficulties to anyone, regardless of age. Young people, however, face additional problems pertaining to after school sports, job prospects, or even academics. Loss of hearing at a young age leads to problems with paying attention and understanding concepts in class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. And because sports require a lot of listening to teammates and coaches calling plays, sports become much more challenging. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on confidence too, which puts unnecessary hurdles in the way of teenagers and younger adults who are coming into the workforce.

Social issues can also persist because of hearing loss. Children with compromised hearing have a more difficult time socializing with peers, which often results in social and emotional issues that require therapy. People who suffer from hearing loss can feel separated and have depression and anxiety inevitably resulting in mental health issues. Dealing with hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health therapy, especially in teenagers and kids during formative years.

Preventing Hearing Loss

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 1 hour per day at 60% or less of the maximum volume. If you’re able to hear your kids music, even if if the volume is at 60%, you should tell them to turn down the volume.

You might also want to say goodbye to the earbuds and choose the older style over-the-ear headphones. Conventional headphones can produce almost 10% less decibels in comparison to in-ear models.

Generally speaking, though, do what you can to limit your exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. If you try to listen to your music without headphones, that is one of the few things you can keep have control of. And, you should see us as soon as possible if you think you’re already suffering from hearing loss.

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