Hearing loss is traditionally considered an older person’s problem – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of people over 75 suffer from some kind of hearing loss. But research reveals that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s totally preventable.
One study of 479 freshmen from three high schools found that 34% of those students showed symptoms of hearing loss. What could be causing this? Scientists believe that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And younger people are not the only ones at risk.
Why do individuals under 60 get hearing loss?
If other people can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a basic rule for teenagers and everyone. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (about the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended periods of time, your hearing can be damaged. The majority of mobile devices can go well above 105dB. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause damage.
It may seem as if everyone would know this but teenagers often have their headphones in for hours at a time. They’re playing games, watching footage, or listening to music during this time. And if the latest research is to be accepted, this time will only increase over the next several years. The production 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 more difficult to get them to put their screens down.
Young people are in danger of hearing loss
Regardless of age, hearing loss obviously creates numerous difficulties. Younger individuals, however, face additional problems with regards to academics, after-school sports, and even job prospects. Hearing loss at a young age leads to issues with paying attention and comprehending concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. It also makes playing sports much harder, since so much of sports involves listening to coaches and teammates giving instructions and calling plays. Early hearing loss can have a negative effect on confidence as well, which puts unwanted obstacles in front of teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce.
Social issues can also continue due to hearing loss. Kids who have damaged hearing have a harder time socializing with peers, which frequently causes social and emotional problems that require therapy. Mental health problems are common in people of all ages who cope with hearing loss because they frequently feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. Managing hearing loss often needs to go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
How young people can prevent hearing loss
The first rule to observe is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes a day at 60% or less of the highest volume. Even at 60%, if other people can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.
It also might be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and stop using earbuds. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Generally, though, do what you can to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout 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 you need to get a hearing exam for your child if you think they might already be dealing with hearing loss.