Hearing loss is usually considered an older person’s problem – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of people over 75 suffer from some kind of hearing loss. But in spite of the fact that in younger people it’s totally preventable, research shows that they too are at risk of developing hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools showed symptoms of hearing loss. The cause? Scientists suspect that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.
What causes hearing loss in people under 60?
There’s a basic rule relating to earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if someone else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (about the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. Most mobile devices can go well above 105dB. In this scenario, damage begins to happen in less than 4 minutes.
While this seems like common sense stuff, the reality is that kids spend upwards of two hours a day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And if current research is to be accepted, this time will only get longer over the next few years. The production of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and research has shown that smartphones and other screens can trigger the release of dopamine. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more challenging to get them to put down their devices.
The risks of hearing loss in young people
Obviously, hearing loss presents several difficulties for anybody, regardless of age. Younger people, however, face added issues with regards to academics, after-school sports, and even job possibilities. Students with hearing loss face a really 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 directions and calling plays. Young adults and teenagers joining the workforce can experience unnecessary roadblocks caused by hearing loss.
Social problems can also persist due to hearing loss. Kids who have damaged hearing have a more difficult time socializing with peers, which often causes social and emotional problems that require therapy. Mental health problems are prevalent in individuals of all ages who cope with hearing loss because they often feel isolated and experience anxiety and depression. Treating hearing loss often needs to go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the important developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
Preventing hearing loss when you’re young
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 observe. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while sitting near them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can no longer hear it.
You might also want to ditch 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 create 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Whatever you can do to reduce your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will help. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t regulate what they are doing when they’re not home. And if you do suspect your child is experiencing hearing loss, you should have them evaluated right away.