An estimated 50% of individuals 75 or over have some type of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it a problem for older people. But research reveals that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s entirely avoidable.
One study of 479 freshmen from three high schools revealed that 34% of those students showed indications of hearing loss. The cause? The thought is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And younger people are not the only ones at risk.
Why do individuals under 60 experience hearing loss?
If others can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a basic rule for teenagers and everybody. Damage to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds louder than 85 decibels – which is approximately the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. Most mobile devices can go well above 105dB. Utilized in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause damage.
While this sounds like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend well over two hours every day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. They’re playing games, watching footage, or listening to music during this time. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next several years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same response caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more challenging to get them to put down their devices.
The dangers of hearing loss in young people
Clearly, hearing loss presents numerous challenges for anyone, regardless of age. For younger individuals though, after school activities, sports, and job prospects create additional difficulties. Hearing loss at a young age leads to problems with paying attention and comprehending concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. It also makes participating in sports much more difficult, since so much of sports involves listening to coaches and teammates giving directions and calling plays. Young adults and teenagers joining the workforce can encounter unnecessary roadblocks caused by hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also cause social issues. Kids often develop emotional and social issues which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Mental health issues are prevalent in people of all ages who have hearing loss because they frequently feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management often go together and this is especially 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 per day at 60% or less of the highest volume. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while sitting near them, you should tell them to lower the volume until you can’t hear it.
It also might be smart to change back to over-the-ear style headphones and quit using earbuds. Earbuds put directly in the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels when compared to traditional headphones.
Whatever you can do to reduce 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 control what they are doing when they’re not home. And you need to get a hearing examination for your child if you believe they may already be suffering from hearing loss.