Hearing loss is commonly considered an older person’s problem – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of individuals over 75 suffer from some kind of hearing loss. But studies show that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing despite the fact that it’s completely preventable.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools exhibited signs of hearing loss. The cause? Scientists suspect that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.
Why do individuals under 60 get hearing loss?
There’s a simple rule relating to earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if someone else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. Harm to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – which is about the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. A typical mobile device with the volume turned all the way up clocks in at around 106 decibels. Utilized in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.
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. During this time, they’re listening to music, playing games, and watching video. And this will only increase over the next several years, if we’re to believe current 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 harder and harder 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 obviously presents a number of difficulties. Younger individuals, however, face additional problems regarding academics, after-school activities, and even job prospects. Students with hearing loss face a particularly difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts. Sports become especially hard if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving directions. Young adults and teenagers joining the workforce can encounter unnecessary obstacles due to hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also lead to social issues. Kids who have damaged hearing have a more difficult time connecting with peers, which often leads to social and emotional problems that require therapy. Mental health issues are prevalent in individuals of all ages who suffer from hearing loss because they frequently feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. Treating hearing loss often needs to go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the important developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
How young people can prevent hearing loss
The first rule to observe is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes per day at 60% or less of the highest volume. Even at 60%, if other people can still hear the sound, it needs to be turned down.
It also might be smart to change back to over-the-ear style headphones and quit using earbuds. Earbuds placed directly inside of the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels when compared to traditional headphones.
Whatever you can do to minimize your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will help. You can’t control everything they do during school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home free of headphones. And if you do suspect your child is dealing with hearing loss, you should have them examined as soon as possible.