Hearing loss is typically considered an older person’s problem – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of individuals over 75 copes with some form of hearing loss. But in spite of the fact that in younger individuals it’s entirely preventable, research shows that they too are at risk of developing hearing loss.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools demonstrated symptoms of hearing loss. What could be causing this? The thought is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the issue. And younger people are not the only ones at risk.
What causes hearing loss in people under 60?
There’s a basic rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if somebody else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Harm to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds louder than 85 decibels – which is about the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. A standard mobile device with the volume turned up to the max is about 106 decibels. In this scenario, damage starts to occur in under 4 minutes.
It may seem as if everyone would know this but teenagers often 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. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and studies have shown that smartphones and other screens can activate dopamine release. It will become more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing might suffer because of it.
The risks of hearing loss in young people
Regardless of age, hearing loss clearly presents a number of difficulties. Younger people, however, face additional problems with regards to academics, after-school activities, and even job possibilities. Students with hearing loss face an especially difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts. 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 detrimental effect on confidence as well, which puts unwanted roadblocks in the way of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.
Hearing loss can also lead to social problems. 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 issues like anxiety and depression. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the important developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young
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 others can still hear the sound, it needs to be turned down.
It also may 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 reduce your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will help. 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 you need to get a hearing exam for your child if you believe they might already be dealing with hearing loss.