Hearing loss is traditionally considered an older person’s issue – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of people aged 75 and older suffer from some kind of hearing loss. But in spite of the fact that in younger individuals it’s entirely preventable, studies show that they too are in danger of developing hearing loss.
One study of 479 freshmen from three high schools revealed that 34% of those students showed indications of hearing loss. What could be causing this? The thought is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And younger people are not the only ones at risk.
Why do people under 60 get hearing loss?
If others can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everyone. Damage to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – which is about the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. A normal mobile device with the volume turned all the way up clocks in at about 106 decibels. Utilized in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause damage.
While this sounds like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend well over two hours every day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. During this time, they’re enjoying music, playing games, and watching video. And if current research is to be accepted, this time will only get longer over the next few years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. It will become more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing may suffer because of it.
The dangers of hearing loss in young people
Obviously, hearing loss creates numerous difficulties for anybody, regardless of age. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job possibilities produce additional challenges. 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 especially challenging if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving instructions. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on confidence as well, which puts unwanted roadblocks in the way of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.
Social problems can also continue as a result of hearing loss. Kids frequently develop emotional and social issues which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Individuals who cope with hearing loss often feel isolated and experience mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Treating hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly during the important 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 per day at 60% or less of the highest volume. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while sitting near them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can no longer 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.
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 regulate what they are doing while they’re not home. And if you do think your child is experiencing hearing loss, you should have them evaluated as soon as possible.