Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

Man on bus wearing headphones unaware he is causing hearing loss with prolonged exposure.

Normally, hearing loss is thought of as a problem only effecting older people – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of individuals who suffer from hearing loss are 75 or older. And though it’s frequently completely avoidable, new research shows an alarming number of younger people are losing their hearing.

The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently carried out research on 479 freshmen across three high schools and discovered that there were indications of hearing loss in 34% of them. The cause? It’s thought that it might be the result of earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices. And younger people are not the only ones in danger of this.

What Causes Hearing Loss in People Under 60?

For teenagers and everybody else, there is a simple rule for earbud volume – it’s too loud if others can hear your music. Injury to your hearing can develop when you listen to noises above 85 decibels – which is about the sound of a vacuum cleaner – over a long period of time. If the volume is cranked all the way up on a standard mobile device it’s volume is around 106 decibels. In this scenario, damage starts to develop in less than 4 minutes.

While this sounds like common sense stuff, in reality kids spend upwards of two hours a day using their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds connected. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And this time is increasing every year according to current research. Studies illustrate that smartphones and other screens activate dopamine production in the brain’s of younger kids, which is the same response caused by addictive drugs. Kids hearing loss will continue to multiply because it will be more and more difficult to get them to put their screens down.

How Much Are Young Kids at Risk of Hearing Loss?

Irrespective of age, it’s obvious that hearing loss offers several challenges. But there are additional issues for young people concerning job prospects, after school sports, or even academics. The student is disadvantaged if they have a hard time hearing and comprehending concepts during class due to early hearing loss. And since sports require a lot of listening to coaches and teammates calling plays, sports become a lot more challenging. Early loss of hearing can have a detrimental effect on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary obstacles in the way of teens and young adults who are entering the workforce.

Social struggles can also persist because of loss of hearing. Kids with damaged hearing commonly end up needing therapy because they have a more difficult time with their friends because of loss of hearing. People who have hearing loss can feel separated and have depression and anxiety inevitably causing mental health problems. Mental health therapies and hearing loss management often go hand in hand, particularly in teenagers and kids during formative years.

Avoiding Hearing Loss

The first rule to adhere to is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes a day at 60% or less of the maximum volume. If you can hear your kids headphones, even if if the volume is at 60%, you should tell them to turn down the volume.

You might also want to get rid of the earbuds and choose the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds, which are put directly in the ear, can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to conventional headphones.

In general, though, do everything you can to limit 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, see us right away if you think you’re already suffering from loss of hearing.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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