Hearing loss is traditionally considered an older person’s issue – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of individuals over 75 suffer from some kind of hearing loss. But research demonstrates that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s totally preventable.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools exhibited symptoms of hearing loss. What could be causing this? Researchers believe that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the issue. And everyone’s at risk.
What causes hearing loss in individuals under 60?
If others can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everyone. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (around the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. Most mobile devices can go well above 105dB. Utilized in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.
It might seem like everyone would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And this will only increase over the next several years, if we’re to believe present research. Studies show that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more challenging to get them to put down their devices.
The risks of hearing loss in young people
Regardless of age, hearing loss obviously creates a number of obstacles. Younger people, however, face added issues with regards to academics, after-school activities, and even job prospects. Students with hearing loss face a particularly difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts. Sports become particularly hard if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving directions. Early hearing loss can have a negative impact on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary roadblocks in the way of teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce.
Social problems can also persist as a result of hearing loss. Kids often develop emotional and social issues which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Mental health problems are common in people of all ages who suffer from hearing loss because they often feel isolated and experience anxiety and depression. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly during the important developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
Avoiding 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 per 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 turn it down until you can’t hear it.
You might also want to ditch the earbuds and opt for the older style over-the-ear headphones. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds put inside of the ear canal can actually create 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’re doing while they’re not home. And you need to get a hearing examination for your child if you believe they may already be suffering from hearing loss.