An estimated 50% of individuals 75 or older have some level of hearing loss and that’s why most people think of it as a problem for older people. But studies show that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s totally avoidable.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools showed signs of hearing loss. The cause? The concept is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And younger people are not the only ones at risk.
Why do individuals under 60 get hearing loss?
If others can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a basic rule for teenagers and everyone. Damage to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds louder than 85 decibels – which is approximately the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. A normal mobile device with the volume turned all the way up is 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 upwards of two hours every day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds in. They’re playing games, watching footage, or listening to music during this time. And this will only increase over the next few years, if we’re to believe present research. Studies show that smartphones and other screens activate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same response caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes harder to get them to put down their devices.
The dangers of hearing loss in young people
Regardless of age, hearing loss clearly creates numerous challenges. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job prospects produce additional challenges. Hearing loss at a young age causes 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 involves listening to coaches and teammates giving directions and calling plays. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on confidence as well, which puts unwanted obstacles in front of teenagers and young adults who are getting into the workforce.
Hearing loss can also cause social issues. Kids frequently develop emotional and social problems which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Mental health problems are prevalent in individuals of all ages who suffer from hearing loss because they frequently feel isolated and experience anxiety and depression. Treating hearing loss often needs to go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
How young people can avoid hearing loss
Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes per day and at a volume 60% of max or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to adhere to. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear them while sitting near them, you should have them lower the volume until you can’t hear it.
It also might be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and quit using earbuds. Earbuds placed directly inside of the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.
In general, though, do what you can to control your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t control what they’re doing when they’re not home. And if you do believe your child is dealing with hearing loss, you should have them evaluated right away.