Young woman not protecting her hearing in a loud subway.

An estimated 50% of people over the age of 75 have some level of hearing loss and that’s why most people think of it as a problem for older people. But despite the fact that in younger individuals it’s entirely preventable, research shows that they too are at risk of developing hearing loss.

One study of 479 freshmen from three high schools revealed that 34% of those students showed indications of hearing loss. What could be causing this? Researchers suspect that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the issue. And younger people aren’t the only ones at risk.

Why do individuals under 60 get hearing loss?

If other people can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everybody. Harm to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds louder than 85 decibels – which is about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. The majority of mobile devices can go well above 105dB. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause damage.

While this seems like common sense stuff, the reality is that kids spend upwards of two hours every day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. During this time, they’re listening to music, playing games, and watching video. And if current research is to be accepted, this time will only get longer over the next few years. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and research has demonstrated that smartphones and other screens can trigger dopamine release. It will become more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing might suffer because of it.

Young people are at risk of hearing loss

Obviously, hearing loss creates multiple challenges for anybody, regardless of age. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job possibilities produce additional difficulties. 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 negative impact on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary roadblocks in the way of teenagers and young adults who are joining 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. Individuals who cope with hearing loss often feel isolated and experience mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management often go together and this is particularly true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.

How young people can avoid hearing loss

The first rule to observe is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes a day at 60% or less of the maximum volume. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the sound, it needs to be turned down.

It also may be smart to change back to over-the-ear style headphones and quit using earbuds. Earbuds placed directly in the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels when compared to traditional headphones.

Whatever you can do to minimize your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. 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 if you do suspect your child is dealing with hearing loss, you should have them evaluated as soon as possible.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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