Hearing Health Blog

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

Hearing loss is traditionally considered an older person’s issue – in fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of individuals aged 75 and older struggle with some form of hearing loss. But new research reveals that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing even though it’s totally preventable.

The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently carried out a study of 479 freshmen spanning three high schools and discovered that 34% of those students exhibited signs of hearing loss. The reason? It’s believed that it might be from headphones and earbuds connected to mobile devices. And older people are also susceptible.

In People Who Are Under 60, What Causes Hearing Loss?

There’s a simple rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if others can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Harm to your hearing can happen when you listen to noises above 85 decibels – which is about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – over a long time period. A normal mobile device with the volume turned up to the max registers at about 106 decibels. In this scenario, injury starts to develop in less than 4 minutes.

While you would think that this stuff would be common sense, the truth is kids spend in excess of two hours every day on their devices, and normally they have their earbuds plugged in. During this time they’re listening to music, watching videos, or playing games. And this time is increasing every year according to current research. Studies reveal that smartphones and other screens activate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same effect caused by addictive drugs. Kids loss of hearing will continue to multiply because it will be more and more hard to get them to put away their screens.

How Much Are Young People at Risk of Hearing Loss?

Obviously, hearing loss offers several challenges to anybody, no matter what the age. Younger people, however, face added issues regarding job prospects, after school sports, or even academics. Hearing loss at a young age results in issues with attention span and understanding concepts in class, which disadvantages the student. It also makes playing sports much more challenging, since so much of sports involves listening to coaches and teammates give instructions and call plays. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on confidence too, which puts unnecessary obstacles in the way of teens and younger adults who are coming into the workforce.

Hearing loss can also result in persistent social problems. Kids whose hearing is impaired commonly wind up requiring therapy because they have a harder time with their friends due to loss of hearing. People who have hearing loss can feel separated and have anxiety and depression inevitably leading to mental health problems. Mental health therapies and hearing loss management often go hand in hand, especially during the significant formative periods experienced by teenagers and kids.

Avoiding Hearing Loss

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – offending devices should be at less than 60% of their maximum volume for no more than 1 hour a day. If you can hear your kids music, even if they are at 60%, you should ask them to turn down the volume.

Also older style over-the-ear headphones may be a better idea than earbuds. Conventional headphones can produce almost 10% less decibels in comparison to in-ear models.

Throughout the day in general, you should do anything possible to reduce your exposure to loud sound. You can’t control everything, so try and make the time you’re listening to tunes free of headphones. If you do suspect you are suffering from hearing loss, you need to see us right away.

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