Hearing loss is usually 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 kind 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 found that 34% of those students showed indications of hearing loss. What could be causing this? The thought is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And the young are not the only ones at risk.
Why do individuals under 60 experience hearing loss?
There’s a simple rule relating to earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if somebody else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. If you listen to sounds louder than 85dB (about the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended periods of time, your hearing can be damaged. A standard mobile device with the volume turned all the way up clocks in at about 106 decibels. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.
It may seem as if everyone would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. 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 present research. Studies show that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes harder to get them to put down their devices.
The risks of hearing loss in young people
Clearly, hearing loss creates numerous challenges for anybody, regardless of age. For younger individuals though, after school activities, sports, and job possibilities create additional difficulties. Students with hearing loss face a particularly difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. It also makes participating in sports much more difficult, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates giving instructions and calling plays. Early hearing loss can have a negative impact on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary roadblocks in front of teenagers and young adults who are getting into the workforce.
Social problems can also persist as a result of hearing loss. Kids frequently develop emotional and social problems which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Mental health problems are common in individuals of all ages who have hearing loss because they often feel isolated and experience anxiety and depression. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management often go together and this is especially true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.
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 follow. Even at 60%, if other people can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.
It also might be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and quit using earbuds. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.
In general, though, do what you can to limit 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 while they’re not home. And if you do think your child is dealing with hearing loss, you should have them examined as soon as possible.