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

Hearing loss is typically thought to be an older person’s issue – in fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of people who suffer from hearing loss are 75 or older. And though it’s frequently completely avoidable, new research shows a shocking number of young people are losing their hearing.

A study of 479 freshmen from three high schools conducted by The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing found that there were indications of hearing loss in 34% of them. The cause? It’s assumed that it may be the result of headphones and earbuds connected to mobile devices. And older individuals are also susceptible.

What is The Cause of Hearing Loss in People Below The Age of 60?

There’s a simple rule concerning earbud volume for teenagers and all other people – the volume is too high if other people can hear your music. Injury to your hearing can develop when you listen to noises higher than 85 decibels – similar to the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for a prolonged period of time. A typical mobile device with the volume turned up all the way clocks in at around 106 decibels. Your hearing is injured in under 4 minutes in these conditions.

Though this seems like common sense stuff, the reality is kids spend as much as two hours each day using their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. They’re listening to music, playing games, or watching videos during this time. And if current research is correct, this time will only increase over the next few years. Studies illustrate that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine generation in the brain’s of younger kids, which is literally what addictive drugs do. It will be more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing may suffer because of it.

The Dangers of Hearing Loss in Young People

Regardless of age, it’s obvious that loss of hearing presents many challenges. Younger people, though, face additional problems regarding after school sports, job prospects, or even academics. The student is disadvantaged if they have a difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts in class due to early hearing loss. It also makes playing sports a lot more difficult, since so much of sports entails listening to coaches and teammates give instructions and call plays. Teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce will have unnecessary hurdles if their loss of hearing has a negative effect on their self-esteem.

Social struggles can also persist due to loss of hearing. Children with compromised hearing have a more difficult time socializing with peers, which typically results in emotional and social struggles that require therapy. Mental health concerns are common in people of all ages who have hearing loss because they typically feel separated and experience anxiety and depression. Treating hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly in teenagers and kids during developmental years.

How You Can Prevent Loss of Hearing?

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

Also older style over-the-ear headphones might be a better choice than earbuds. Earbuds, placed directly in the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels in comparison to conventional headphones.

In general, though, do whatever you can to limit your exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. You can’t control everything, so try and make the time you’re listening to music free of headphones. If you do suspect you are suffering from loss of hearing, you need to see us right away.