Young woman not protecting her hearing in a loud subway.

An estimated 50% of people 75 or older have some level of hearing loss and that’s why most people think of it as a problem for older people. But research shows that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing despite the fact that it’s entirely preventable.

One study of 479 freshmen across three high schools revealed that 34% of those students showed indications of hearing loss. The cause? The thought is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And younger people aren’t 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. Damage to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – which is about the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. A normal mobile device with the volume turned all the way up is around 106 decibels. Utilized in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.

It might seem like everybody would know this but teenagers often have their headphones in for hours at a time. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And if the latest research is to be accepted, this time will only increase over the next several years. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and research has shown that smartphones and other screens can activate dopamine release. It will become harder and harder to get screens away from kids, and their hearing could suffer because of it.

Young people are in danger of hearing loss

Clearly, hearing loss creates several challenges for anybody, regardless of age. Younger people, however, face added issues regarding academics, after-school activities, and even job possibilities. Students with hearing loss face a particularly difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts. 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 due to hearing loss.

Hearing loss can also lead to social issues. Kids who have damaged hearing have a more difficult time interacting with peers, which often causes social and emotional issues that require therapy. Individuals who suffer with hearing loss frequently feel isolated and experience mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.

How young people can prevent hearing loss

Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes a 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 may be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and stop using earbuds. Earbuds put directly into the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.

Whatever you can do to reduce your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. 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 think your child is suffering from hearing loss, you should have them examined right away.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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