Young woman not protecting her hearing in a loud subway.

An estimated 50% of people 75 or older have some level of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it an issue for older people. But studies show that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing despite the fact that it’s completely preventable.

As a matter of fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools exhibited signs of hearing loss. What could be causing this? The thought is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.

Why do people under 60 experience hearing loss?

If other people can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a basic rule for teenagers and everybody. Harm to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds above 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. In this situation, damage begins to occur in under 4 minutes.

While this seems like common sense stuff, the reality is that kids spend well over two hours every day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. They’re playing games, watching footage, or listening to music during this time. 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 trigger dopamine release. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes harder to get them to put down their devices.

The risks of hearing loss in young people

Obviously, hearing loss creates multiple obstacles for anybody, regardless of age. Younger individuals, however, face additional problems regarding academics, after-school activities, and even job prospects. Students with hearing loss face an especially difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. It also makes playing sports much more difficult, since so much of sports involves listening to coaches and teammates giving instructions and calling plays. Young adults and teenagers joining the workforce can experience unnecessary obstacles due to hearing loss.

Social issues can also continue as a result of hearing loss. Kids who have damaged hearing have a more difficult time interacting with peers, which often leads to social and emotional issues that require therapy. People who suffer with hearing loss often feel isolated and experience mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management frequently go together and this is particularly true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.

Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young

The first rule to follow 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 music, it needs to be turned down.

You might also want to ditch the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds placed directly inside of the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels when compared to traditional headphones.

Generally, though, do what you can to reduce 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’re doing when they’re not home. And if you do suspect your child is dealing with hearing loss, you should have them examined 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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