An estimated 50% of people 75 or over have some form of hearing loss and that’s why most people think of it as a problem for older people. But research demonstrates that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s completely preventable.
As a matter of fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools demonstrated symptoms of hearing loss. The cause? Researchers suspect that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And younger people are not the only ones at risk.
Why do people under 60 get hearing loss?
If others can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everybody. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (about the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended periods of time, your hearing can be damaged. The majority of mobile devices can go well above 105dB. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.
It might seem like everybody would know this but teenagers often 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. The production of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and research has shown that smartphones and other screens can stimulate dopamine release. It will be harder and harder to get screens away from kids, and their hearing may suffer because of it.
The dangers of hearing loss in young people
Clearly, hearing loss creates multiple difficulties for anybody, regardless of age. For younger individuals though, after school activities, sports, and job possibilities create additional difficulties. Students with hearing loss face a particularly difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts. It also makes participating in sports much harder, since so much of sports involves listening to coaches and teammates giving instructions and calling plays. Early hearing loss can have a negative effect 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 due to hearing loss. Kids with damaged hearing have a harder time socializing with peers, which often leads to social and emotional issues that require therapy. Mental health issues are common in people of all ages who suffer from hearing loss because they frequently feel isolated and experience anxiety and depression. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young
Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes a day and at a volume 60% of maximum or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to follow. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.
It also may be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and stop using earbuds. Earbuds placed directly into the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.
In general, though, do what you can to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds during the day. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t control what they are doing while they’re not home. And you should get a hearing test for your child if you believe they may already be suffering from hearing loss.