Hearing loss is commonly considered an older person’s issue – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of individuals aged 75 and older copes with some form of hearing loss. But in spite of the fact that in younger individuals it’s entirely preventable, studies show that they too are at risk of experiencing hearing loss.
One study of 479 freshmen from three high schools found that 34% of those students showed indications of hearing loss. The cause? Scientists suspect that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the issue. And younger people are not the only ones at risk.
What causes hearing loss in individuals under 60?
There’s a simple rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if someone else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. Harm to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds louder than 85 decibels – which is about the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. A normal mobile device with the volume turned up to the max is around 106 decibels. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.
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. During this time, they’re enjoying music, playing games, and watching video. And this will only increase over the next several years, if we’re to believe current research. Research shows that smartphones and other screens activate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more difficult to get them to put down their devices.
The risks of hearing loss in young people
Regardless of age, hearing loss obviously presents numerous challenges. Younger people, however, face additional issues with regards to academics, after-school sports, and even job prospects. Hearing loss at a young age causes issues with paying attention and comprehending concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. It also makes playing sports much harder, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates giving directions and calling plays. Young adults and teenagers joining the workforce can experience unnecessary roadblocks caused by hearing loss.
Social problems can also persist due to hearing loss. Kids who have damaged hearing have a harder time socializing with peers, which often causes social and emotional problems that require therapy. People who cope with hearing loss often feel isolated and experience mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Treating hearing loss often needs to go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly during the important developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
Preventing hearing loss when you’re young
Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes per day and at a volume 60% of maximum or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to observe. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the sound, it needs to be turned down.
You might also want to replace the earbuds and opt for the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds put directly inside of the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.
Whatever you can do to minimize your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will help. 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 if you do think your child is suffering from hearing loss, you should have them examined right away.