Hearing loss is commonly considered an older person’s problem – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of individuals over 75 copes with some form of hearing loss. But research reveals that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing despite the fact that it’s entirely avoidable.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools exhibited symptoms of hearing loss. The cause? Scientists suspect that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the issue. And the young are not the only ones at risk.
Why do individuals under 60 get hearing loss?
If other people can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everyone. Damage to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – which is approximately the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. The majority of mobile devices can go well above 105dB. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.
It might seem like everybody would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. During this time, they’re listening to music, playing games, and watching video. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only increase over the next few years. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and research has revealed that smartphones and other screens can trigger dopamine release. It will become more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing might suffer because of it.
Young people are at risk of hearing loss
Obviously, hearing loss presents numerous challenges for anyone, regardless of age. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job possibilities produce additional difficulties. Students with hearing loss face a really difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. It also makes playing sports much harder, since so much of sports involves listening to coaches and teammates giving instructions and calling plays. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental impact on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary roadblocks in the way of teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce.
Social issues can also persist due to hearing loss. Kids with damaged hearing have a more difficult time interacting with peers, which frequently causes social and emotional problems that require therapy. Individuals who suffer with hearing loss often feel isolated and experience mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Managing hearing loss often needs to go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly during the important developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
How young people can prevent hearing loss
The first rule to observe is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes per day at 60% or less of the highest volume. Even at 60%, if others 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 generate 6 to 9 extra decibels when 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 control what they’re doing while they’re not home. And you should get a hearing assessment for your child if you believe they may already be dealing with hearing loss.