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

Generally, hearing loss is considered to be a problem only impacting older people – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of individuals aged 75 and older have some form of hearing loss. And despite the fact that it’s often completely preventable, new research reveals an alarming number of younger people are losing their hearing.

A study of 479 freshmen from three high schools conducted by The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing found that 34% of those freshmen exhibited signs of hearing loss. The cause? It’s believed that it could be from headphones and earbuds connected to mobile devices. And older people are also susceptible.

What Causes Hearing Loss in People Under 60?

For teenagers and everybody else, there is a basic rule for earbud volume – it’s too loud if other people can hear your music. Damage to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – which is approximately the volume of a vacuum cleaner – over a long period of time. If the volume is cranked all the way up on a typical mobile device it’s volume is approximately 106 decibels. In this scenario, damage begins to develop in under 4 minutes.

While you might think that this stuff would be common sense, in reality kids spend as much as two hours a day on their devices, commonly with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. They’re listening to music, playing games, or watching videos during this time. And this time is increasing each year according to current research. Studies reveal that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in the brain’s of younger kids, which is the same effect triggered by addictive drugs. Kids hearing loss will continue to increase because it will be more and more hard to get them to put their screens down.

How Much Are Young People in Danger of Hearing Loss?

Regardless of age, it’s clear that hearing loss presents several struggles. Younger people, though, have to deal with added problems regarding after school sports, job prospects, or even academics. Hearing loss at a young age leads to issues with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. It also makes participating in sports much more difficult, since so much of sports involves listening to teammates and coaches give instructions and call plays. Teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce will have unnecessary hurdles if their hearing loss has a negative impact on their self-esteem.

Social problems can also persist due to hearing loss. Children with compromised hearing frequently end up requiring therapy because they have a harder time with their friends due to loss of hearing. People who have loss of hearing 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, especially in teenagers and kids during developmental years.

How You Can Prevent Loss of Hearing?

The first rule to adhere to is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 1 hour per day at a maximum volume of 69%. If your children listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while you are near them, you should have them turn it down until you can’t hear it anymore.

Also older style over-the-ear headphones might be a better idea than earbuds. Earbuds, placed directly in the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels in comparison to traditional headphones.

Throughout the day in general, you should do everything you can to reduce your exposure to loud sound. If you try to listen to your tunes without headphones, that is one of the few things you can control. And, see us as soon as possible if you think you’re already suffering from hearing loss.

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