Hearing loss is usually considered an older person’s issue – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of individuals over 75 suffer from some form of hearing loss. But despite 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 signs of hearing loss. The cause? The concept is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the issue. And everyone’s at risk.
What causes hearing loss in people under 60?
There’s a simple rule relating to earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if someone else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Harm to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds louder than 85 decibels – which is approximately the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. A standard mobile device with the volume turned all the way up is around 106 decibels. In this situation, damage begins to take place in less than 4 minutes.
While this sounds like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend upwards of two hours every day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds in. During this time, they’re enjoying music, playing games, and watching video. And if the latest research is to be accepted, this time will only increase over the next few years. The production of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and studies have shown that smartphones and other screens can activate the release of dopamine. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more challenging to get them to put their screens down.
Young people are in danger of hearing loss
Obviously, hearing loss creates numerous obstacles for anyone, regardless of age. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job prospects create additional difficulties. Students with hearing loss face a particularly difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. It also makes participating in sports much harder, since so much of sports involves listening to coaches and teammates giving directions and calling plays. Early hearing loss can have a negative impact on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary roadblocks in the way of teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce.
Social issues 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. Mental health problems are prevalent in people of all ages who suffer from hearing loss because they frequently feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management often go together and this is especially true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.
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 a day at 60% or less of the maximum volume. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while sitting close to them, you should tell them to lower the volume until you can’t hear it.
It also might be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and stop using earbuds. Earbuds put directly inside of the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels when compared to traditional headphones.
Whatever you can do to reduce your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. 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 if you do believe your child is dealing with hearing loss, you should have them examined as soon as possible.