An estimated 50% of individuals over the age of 75 have some level of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it a problem for older people. But studies show that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s completely preventable.
One study of 479 freshmen across three high schools discovered that 34% of those students showed symptoms of hearing loss. What could be causing this? The concept is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And younger people aren’t the only ones at risk.
Why do people 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 it’s too loud. If you listen to sounds louder than 85dB (about the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. Most mobile devices can go well above 105dB. In this situation, damage starts to take place in less than 4 minutes.
While this seems like common sense stuff, the reality is that kids spend well over two hours a day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds in. They’re playing games, watching footage, or listening to music during this time. And this will only increase over the next several years, if we’re to believe present research. Studies show that smartphones and other screens activate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same response caused by addictive drugs. It will be more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing might suffer because of it.
The dangers of hearing loss in young people
Clearly, hearing loss creates several challenges for anybody, regardless of age. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job prospects produce additional difficulties. Hearing loss at a young age causes problems with paying attention and comprehending concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. Sports become particularly challenging if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving directions. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental impact on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary roadblocks in the way of teenagers and young adults who are getting into the workforce.
Hearing loss can also cause social problems. Kids who have damaged hearing have a harder time socializing with peers, which often causes social and emotional problems that require therapy. Mental health issues are prevalent in people of all ages who suffer from hearing loss because they frequently feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. Treating hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly during the important developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young
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 maximum volume. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while sitting near them, you should have them lower the volume until you can’t hear it.
It also might be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and quit using earbuds. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually create 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Generally, 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 if you do believe your child is dealing with hearing loss, you should have them examined right away.