Typically, loss of hearing is considered to be a problem only impacting older people – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of people who have hearing loss are 75 or older. But new research reveals that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing even though it’s completely preventable.
A study of 479 freshmen from three high schools carried out by The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing found that there were signs of hearing loss in 34% of them. Why is this occurring? It’s suspected that it could be the result of headphones and earbuds connected to mobile devices. And younger people are not the only ones at risk.
What is The Cause of Hearing Loss in People Below The Age of 60?
For teenagers and everyone else, there is a simple rule for earbud volume – it’s too loud if other people can hear your music. Your hearing can be damaged when you listen to sounds higher than 85 decibels – about 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. Your hearing is injured in less than 4 minutes in these situations.
While you would think that this stuff would be common sense, the reality is kids spend around two hours every day on their devices, and ordinarily they have their earbuds plugged in. During this time they’re listening to music, watching videos, or playing games. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next few years. Studies reveal that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine production in the brain’s of younger kids, which is the same response triggered by addictive drugs. Kids hearing loss will continue to multiply because it will be increasingly difficult to get them to put their screens down.
The Challenges of Hearing Loss in Young People
Clearly, loss of hearing offers several difficulties to anyone, no matter what the age. Young people, though, have to deal with added issues concerning after school sports, job prospects, or even academics. Hearing loss at a young age causes problems with paying attention and understanding information during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. It also makes playing sports a lot more challenging, since so much of sports includes listening to teammates and coaches give instructions and call plays. Early loss of hearing can have an adverse effect on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary hurdles in the way of teenagers and younger adults who are joining the workforce.
Loss of hearing can also lead to persistent social issues. Children with damaged hearing often end up needing therapy because they have a harder time with their friends due to loss of hearing. People who suffer from loss of hearing can feel separated and have anxiety and depression inevitably leading to mental health issues. Mental health therapies and hearing loss treatment often go hand in hand, particularly during the important formative periods experienced by kids and teenagers.
Preventing Hearing Loss
The first rule to adhere to is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 1 hour per day at 60% or less of the maximum volume. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the music while sitting near them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can no longer hear it.
You might also want to say goodbye to the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds, placed directly in the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels in comparison to traditional headphones.
Generally, though, do whatever you can to reduce your exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. You can’t control everything, so try to make the time you’re listening to music headphone-free. If you do think you’re suffering from hearing loss, you need to see us right away.