Hearing loss is commonly considered an older person’s problem – in fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of people over 75 copes with some kind of hearing loss. But in spite of the fact that in younger people it’s totally preventable, studies show that they too are at risk of developing hearing loss.
One study of 479 freshmen from three high schools discovered that 34% of those students showed signs of hearing loss. The cause? The thought is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.
Why do individuals under 60 experience hearing loss?
There’s a basic rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if someone else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (around the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. A normal mobile device with the volume turned all the way up clocks in at about 106 decibels. In this situation, damage begins to take place in under 4 minutes.
While this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend upwards of two hours every day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. During this time, they’re listening to music, playing games, and watching video. And this will only increase over the next several years, if we’re to believe present research. Research shows that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more difficult to get them to put down their devices.
Young people are at risk of hearing loss
Obviously, hearing loss presents multiple difficulties for anyone, regardless of age. For younger individuals though, after school activities, sports, and job prospects produce additional difficulties. Students with hearing loss face a really difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts. 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 detrimental effect on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary obstacles in the way of teenagers and young adults who are getting into the workforce.
Hearing loss can also cause social issues. Kids with damaged hearing have a more difficult time interacting with peers, which frequently causes social and emotional issues that require therapy. People who suffer with hearing loss frequently feel isolated and experience mental health problems like anxiety and depression. 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
Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes a day and at a volume 60% of maximum or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to adhere to. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear them while sitting close to them, you should have them turn it down until you can’t hear it.
You might also want to ditch the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds placed directly in the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.
In general, though, do what you can to control your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. You can’t regulate everything they do while at school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home headphone-free. And you should get a hearing examination for your child if you believe they might already be suffering from hearing loss.