Hearing loss is traditionally considered an older person’s problem – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of people aged 75 and older copes with some kind of hearing loss. But despite the fact that in younger individuals it’s totally preventable, studies show that they too are at risk of experiencing 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? Scientists suspect that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the issue. And everyone’s at risk.
Why do individuals under 60 experience hearing loss?
If other people can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everyone. 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. A typical mobile device with the volume turned all the way up clocks in at about 106 decibels. In this situation, damage begins to happen in under 4 minutes.
While this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend well over two hours a day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. During this time, they’re enjoying music, playing games, and watching video. And this will only increase over the next few years, if we’re to believe current research. Research shows that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same response caused by addictive drugs. 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 presents multiple challenges for anybody, regardless of age. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job prospects produce additional challenges. Hearing loss at a young age leads to problems with paying attention and comprehending concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. Sports become especially difficult if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving instructions. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on confidence as well, which puts unwanted roadblocks in the way of teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce.
Social problems can also continue due to hearing loss. Kids often develop emotional and social issues which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Individuals who cope with hearing loss often feel isolated and experience mental health problems like 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 them while sitting near them, you should tell them to lower the volume until you can no longer hear it.
It also might be smart to change back to over-the-ear style headphones and stop using earbuds. Earbuds placed directly inside of the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.
Whatever you can do to minimize your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. You can’t regulate everything they do during school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home free of headphones. And you should get a hearing test for your child if you think they may already be dealing with hearing loss.