Hearing loss is typically considered an older person’s problem – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of people aged 75 and older copes with some form of hearing loss. But in spite of the fact that in younger people it’s entirely preventable, research shows 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 showed signs of hearing loss. What could be causing this? Researchers believe that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And the young are not the only ones at risk.
Why do people under 60 experience hearing loss?
There’s a simple rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if someone else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (around the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended periods of time, your hearing can be damaged. A standard mobile device with the volume turned all the way up is about 106 decibels. In this scenario, damage begins to occur in less than 4 minutes.
It may seem like everyone would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. During this time, they’re listening to music, playing games, and watching video. And this will only increase over the next few years, if we’re to believe current research. 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 harder and harder to get screens away from kids, and their hearing might suffer because of it.
The risks of hearing loss in young people
Clearly, hearing loss creates multiple challenges for anyone, regardless of age. Younger people, however, face added problems regarding academics, after-school sports, and even job possibilities. Hearing loss at a young age leads to problems with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. It also makes participating in sports much more difficult, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates giving instructions and calling plays. Early hearing loss can have a negative effect 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 due to hearing loss. Kids often develop emotional and social problems which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. People who suffer with hearing loss frequently feel isolated and experience mental health problems 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 a day and at a volume 60% of maximum or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to observe. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.
It also might be smart to switch 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. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t regulate what they are doing while they’re not home. And if you do think your child is experiencing hearing loss, you should have them evaluated right away.