Hearing loss is typically considered an older person’s problem – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of people aged 75 and up have some kind of hearing loss. But a new study reveals that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s completely preventable.
A study of 479 freshmen from three high schools conducted by The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing found that 34% of those freshmen showed signs of hearing loss. The reason? Mobile devices with headphones or earbuds connected are suspected to be the primary cause. And the young aren’t the only ones at risk.
In People Who Are Under The Age of 60, What Causes Loss of Hearing?
For teenagers and everybody else, there is a simple rule for earbud volume – it’s too loud if other people can hear your music. Your hearing can be damaged when you listen to sounds higher than 85 decibels – which is approximately the sound of a vacuum cleaner – over a long time period. If the volume is turned all the way up on a normal mobile device it’s volume is approximately 106 decibels. Your hearing is injured in less than 4 minutes in these conditions.
Though this sounds like common sense stuff, the reality is kids spend as much as two hours each day using their devices, and usually they have their earbuds connected. During this time they’re listening to music, watching videos, or playing games. And this time is getting longer every year according to current research. Studies show that dopamine is activated by smartphones and other devices with screens, in the brain’s of younger kids, which is literally what addictive drugs do. It will be increasingly difficult to get kids to put down their screens, and their hearing could suffer as a result.
The Risks of Hearing Loss in Young People
Clearly, loss of hearing presents multiple struggles to anybody, no matter what the age. Younger people, though, face added issues pertaining to after school sports, job prospects, and even academics. Loss of hearing at a young age causes problems with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. And because sports involve a lot of listening to coaches and teammates calling plays, sports become much more difficult. Early hearing loss can have an adverse effect on confidence also, which puts unnecessary hurdles in the way of teenagers and young adults who are coming into the workforce.
Loss of hearing can also cause persistent social problems. Kids with damaged hearing frequently wind up needing therapy because they have a more difficult time with their friends because of loss of hearing. People who have loss of hearing can feel separated and have depression and anxiety inevitably leading to mental health issues. Mental health treatment and hearing loss treatment often go hand in hand, especially in kids and teenagers during formative years.
Preventing Hearing Loss
The first rule to adhere to is the 60/60 rule – offending devices should be at no more than 60% of their maximum volume for less than 1 hour each day. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the music while you are close to them, you should have them turn it down until you can’t hear it anymore.
Also older style over-the-ear headphones may be a better idea than earbuds. Earbuds, which are put directly in the ear, can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.
Generally speaking, though, do everything you can to reduce your exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. You can’t control everything, so try to make the time you’re listening to music free of headphones. And, you should see us right away if you suspect you’re already suffering from loss of hearing.