Hearing loss is typically considered an older person’s problem – in fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of people over 75 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 across three high schools discovered that 34% of those students showed signs of hearing loss. The cause? Scientists suspect that earbuds and headphones linked 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?
If other people can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a basic rule for teenagers and everybody. If you listen to sounds louder than 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.
It may seem as if everybody would know this but teenagers often have their headphones in for hours at a time. During this time, they’re enjoying music, playing games, and watching video. And if current research is to be accepted, this time will only increase over the next few years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens activate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same response caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes harder to get them to put their screens down.
The risks of hearing loss in young people
Regardless of age, hearing loss obviously creates a number of challenges. Younger people, however, face added issues with regards to academics, after-school sports, and even job prospects. Hearing loss at a young age leads to problems with paying attention and comprehending concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. Sports become particularly difficult if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving instructions. Young adults and teenagers entering the workforce can face unnecessary roadblocks caused by hearing loss.
Social issues can also persist due to hearing loss. Kids with damaged hearing have a more difficult time connecting with peers, which often causes social and emotional problems that require therapy. Mental health issues are prevalent in individuals of all ages who cope with hearing loss because they frequently feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management frequently go together and this is particularly true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.
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 maximum volume. Even at 60%, if other people can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.
You might also want to replace the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. In comparison to traditional headphones, earbuds put inside of the ear canal can actually produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.
In general, 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’re doing when they’re not home. And if you do suspect your child is suffering from hearing loss, you should have them assessed as soon as possible.