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

Hearing loss is generally considered an older person’s concern – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of people aged 75 and up suffer from some type of hearing loss. But a new study reveals that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing even though it’s completely avoidable.

A study of 479 freshmen from three high schools carried out by The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing revealed that there were signs of hearing loss in 34% of them. Why is this occurring? Mobile devices with earbuds or headphones connected are believed to be the culprit. And older people are also at risk.

What Causes Hearing Loss in People Below The Age of 60?

There’s a very simple rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and all other people – if others can hear your music, then the volume is too high. Your hearing can be damaged when you listen to sounds higher than 85 decibels – which is approximately the volume of a vacuum cleaner – over a long period of time. If the volume is turned all the way up on a typical mobile device it’s volume is approximately 106 decibels. Your hearing is injured in less than 4 minutes in these circumstances.

While you might think that this stuff would be common sense, the reality is kids spend upwards of two hours a day using their devices, and usually they have their earbuds plugged in. During this time they’re listening to music, watching videos, or playing games. And this time is getting longer each year according to current research. Studies reveal that smartphones and other screens activate dopamine generation in the brain’s of younger kids, which is literally what addictive drugs do. It will be more and more challenging to get kids to put down their screens, and their hearing could suffer as a result.

The Risks of Hearing Loss in Young People

Regardless of age, it’s clear that loss of hearing presents numerous struggles. But there are added issues for young people concerning after school sports, job prospects, or even academics. Loss of hearing at a young age results in issues with attention span and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. And because sports involve a lot of listening to coaches and teammates calling plays, sports become a lot more difficult. Teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce will have unneeded hurdles if their hearing loss has a detrimental impact on their self-esteem.

Hearing loss can also result in persistent social problems. Children whose hearing is damaged commonly wind up needing therapy because they have a more difficult time with their friends because of loss of hearing. Mental health concerns are ordinary in people of all ages who suffer from hearing loss because they often feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. Treating hearing loss in many cases must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the significant developmental periods experienced by kids and teenagers.

Avoiding Hearing Loss

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – offending devices should be at less than 60% of their max volume for no more than 1 hour per day. If you’re able to hear your kids music, even if they are at 60%, you need to ask them to turn down the volume.

Also older style over-the-ear headphones might be a better idea than earbuds. Earbuds, placed directly in the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.

Throughout the day in general, you need to do anything possible to limit your exposure to loud noise. If you try to listen to your tunes without headphones, that is one of the few things you can control. If you do think you’re suffering from hearing loss, you need to see us as soon as possible.