An estimated 50% of people 75 or older have some level of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it a problem for older people. But in spite of the fact that in younger individuals it’s totally preventable, research shows that they too are in danger of experiencing hearing loss.
One study of 479 freshmen from three high schools discovered that 34% of those students showed signs of hearing loss. What could be causing this? Scientists believe that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And younger people aren’t the only ones at risk.
What causes hearing loss in people under 60?
There’s a simple rule relating to earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if somebody 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 periods of time, your hearing can be damaged. A normal mobile device with the volume turned up to the max clocks in at about 106 decibels. In this scenario, damage begins to take place in less than 4 minutes.
It might 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 believed, this time will only increase over the next several years. The production of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and studies have demonstrated that smartphones and other screens can stimulate the release of dopamine. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more difficult to get them to put down their devices.
The dangers of hearing loss in young people
Clearly, hearing loss creates several obstacles for anybody, regardless of age. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job prospects produce additional difficulties. Students with hearing loss face a really difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts. It also makes participating in sports much more difficult, since so much of sports involves listening to coaches and teammates giving directions and calling plays. Early hearing loss can have a negative effect on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary obstacles in the way of teenagers and young adults who are getting into the workforce.
Social problems can also continue due to hearing loss. Kids with damaged hearing have a harder time interacting with peers, which often causes social and emotional issues that require therapy. Mental health problems are common in people of all ages who have hearing loss because they frequently 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.
How young people can prevent hearing loss
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. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear them while sitting close to them, you should have them lower the volume until you can’t hear it.
You might also want to replace the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds put directly in the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels when compared to traditional headphones.
Whatever you can do to limit 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 control what they are doing when they’re not home. And if you do think your child is dealing with hearing loss, you should have them assessed right away.