An estimated 50% of individuals over the age of 75 have some form of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it a problem for older people. But despite the fact that in younger individuals it’s completely preventable, studies show that they too are in danger of experiencing hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools showed signs of hearing loss. The cause? Researchers believe that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the issue. And everyone’s at risk.
What causes hearing loss in individuals under 60?
There’s a simple rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if somebody else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (around the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. Most mobile devices can go well above 105dB. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause damage.
While this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend well over two hours a day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And if current research is to be accepted, this time will only get longer over the next several years. Research shows that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction 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.
Young people are in danger of hearing loss
Clearly, hearing loss presents multiple challenges for anybody, regardless of age. For younger individuals though, after school activities, sports, and job possibilities produce additional difficulties. Hearing loss at a young age causes issues with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. Sports become especially difficult if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving instructions. Young adults and teenagers entering the workforce can experience unnecessary roadblocks caused by hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also result in social issues. Kids with damaged hearing have a more difficult time connecting with peers, which often causes social and emotional problems that require therapy. Mental health problems are prevalent in people of all ages who cope with hearing loss because they often feel isolated and experience anxiety and depression. Managing hearing loss often needs to go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the important developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young
The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes a 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’t hear it.
You may also want to replace the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Generally, though, do what you can to reduce 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 when they’re not home. And you need to get a hearing examination for your child if you think they might already be suffering from hearing loss.