Generally, hearing loss is thought of as a problem only effecting older people – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that about 50% of people who suffer from loss of hearing are 75 or older. And despite the fact that it’s often totally preventable, new research shows a shocking number of young people are losing their hearing.
The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently conducted research on 479 freshmen from three high schools and found that 34% of those students showed signs of hearing loss. The cause? Mobile devices with headphones or earbuds connected are thought to be the primary cause. And younger people are not the only ones in danger of this.
What Causes Hearing Loss in People Below The Age of 60?
There’s an easy rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – the volume is too high if other people can hear your music. Injury to your hearing can develop when you listen to noises higher than 85 decibels – similar to the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. A typical mobile device with the volume cranked up to the max registers at around 106 decibels. Your hearing is damaged in under 4 minutes in these situations.
Though this seems like common sense stuff, the reality is kids spend around two hours every day using their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. They’re listening to music, playing games, or watching videos during this time. And if current research is correct, this time will only increase over the next few years. Studies demonstrate that dopamine is triggered by smartphones and other devices that have screens, in younger kids’ brains, which is literally what addictive drugs do. It will be more and more challenging to get screens away from kids, and their hearing may suffer because of it.
The Risks of Hearing Loss in Young People
Irrespective of age, it’s obvious that loss of hearing presents many challenges. But there are additional problems for young people regarding after school sports, job prospects, and even academics. The student is disadvantaged if they have a hard time hearing and comprehending concepts in class due to early loss of hearing. And since sports involve a lot of listening to teammates and coaches calling plays, sports become far more challenging. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary hurdles in the way of teenagers and younger adults who are entering the workforce.
Loss of hearing can also cause persistent social problems. Kids whose hearing is damaged have a harder time interacting with peers, which typically leads to social and emotional problems that require therapy. People who suffer from hearing loss can feel separated and have anxiety and depression inevitably leading to mental health issues. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly during the significant formative phases experienced by teenagers and kids.
Avoiding Hearing Loss
The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – offending devices should be at less than 60% of their max volume for less than 1 hour a day. If you’re able to hear your kids headphones, even if they are at 60%, you need to ask them to turn the volume down.
You might also want to ditch the earbuds and choose the older style over-the-ear headphones. Conventional headphones can generate almost 10% less volume in comparison to in-ear models.
Generally speaking, though, do what you can to reduce your exposure to loud noises throughout the day. You can’t control everything, so try to make the time you’re listening to music free of headphones. If you do believe you’re dealing with loss of hearing, you need to see us as soon as possible.