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

Typically, loss of hearing is thought of as an issue only effecting older people – in fact, it’s estimated that about 50% of people who suffer from loss of hearing are 75 or older. And despite the fact that it’s often entirely preventable, a new study reveals an alarming number of young people are losing their hearing.

The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently carried out a study of 479 freshmen across three high schools and revealed that there were signs of hearing loss in 34% of them. The cause? It’s believed that it could be the result of earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices. And older people are also at risk.

What is The Cause of Hearing Loss in People Under 60?

For teenagers and everyone else, there is a simple rule for earbud volume – if someone else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Your hearing can be damaged when you listen to noises above 85 decibels – about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – over a long time period. If the volume is cranked all the way up on a normal mobile device it’s volume is about 106 decibels. Your hearing is damaged in less than 4 minutes in these conditions.

While you might think that this stuff would be common sense, in reality kids spend upwards of two hours each day using their devices, and usually they have their earbuds plugged in. They’re listening to music, playing games, or watching videos during this time. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next few years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine generation in younger kids’ brains, which is literally what addictive drugs do. It will be increasingly difficult to get kids to put down their screens, and their hearing may suffer because of it.

The Dangers of Hearing Loss in Young People

Irrespective of age, it’s obvious that hearing loss offers a number of struggles. But there are added problems for young people regarding after school sports, job prospects, or even academics. The student is put at a disadvantage if they have a hard time hearing and understanding concepts in class due to early loss of hearing. And because sports require a lot of listening to teammates and coaches calling plays, sports become a lot harder. Teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce will have unneeded obstacles if their hearing loss has a negative impact on their self-esteem.

Social troubles can also continue due to loss of hearing. Kids with damaged hearing frequently wind up needing therapy because they have a more difficult time with their peers because of loss of hearing. People who suffer from hearing loss can feel separated and have anxiety and depression inevitably resulting in mental health concerns. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management often go hand in hand, particularly in teenagers and kids during developmental years.

Avoiding Hearing Loss

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes a day at a maximum volume of 69%. If you’re able to hear your kids music, even if if the volume is at 60%, you should ask them to turn the volume down.

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 traditional headphones.

Generally, though, do whatever you can to reduce your exposure to loud noises throughout the day. If you try to listen to your music without headphones, that is one of the few things you can control. If you do believe you are suffering from loss of hearing, you need to see us as soon as possible.

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