Hearing loss is normally considered an older person’s issue – in fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of individuals over 75 suffer from some kind of hearing loss. But in spite of the fact that in younger people it’s entirely preventable, research shows that they too are in danger of developing hearing loss.
One study of 479 freshmen across three high schools revealed that 34% of those students showed indications of hearing loss. The cause? The thought is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And younger people aren’t the only ones at risk.
What causes hearing loss in people under 60?
There’s a basic rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if somebody else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Harm to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – which is about the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. The majority of mobile devices can go well above 105dB. In this situation, damage begins to happen in under 4 minutes.
It might seem like everyone would know this but teenagers often have their headphones in for hours at a time. During this time, they’re listening to music, playing games, and watching video. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next several years. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and studies have revealed that smartphones and other screens can trigger dopamine release. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more challenging to get them to put down their devices.
The dangers of hearing loss in young people
Regardless of age, hearing loss clearly creates numerous challenges. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job prospects create additional challenges. Hearing loss at a young age leads to problems with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. It also makes playing sports much more difficult, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates giving instructions and calling plays. Young adults and teenagers joining the workforce can encounter unnecessary obstacles caused by hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also result in social issues. Kids often develop emotional and social issues which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. People who suffer with hearing loss frequently feel isolated and experience mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management frequently go together and this is particularly true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.
Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young
Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes per day and at a volume 60% of max or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to follow. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear them while sitting near them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can no longer hear it.
You may also want to ditch the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds put 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. You can’t regulate everything they do during school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home headphone-free. And you need to get a hearing test for your child if you believe they may already be suffering from hearing loss.