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Man on bus wearing headphones unaware he is causing hearing loss with prolonged exposure.

Hearing loss is traditionally thought of as an older person’s concern – in fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of people aged 75 and up have some kind of hearing loss. But a new study shows that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s completely avoidable.

The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently conducted research on 479 freshmen from three high schools and revealed that there were indications of hearing loss in 34% of them. The reason? It’s suspected that it could be from earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices. And the young aren’t the only ones in danger of this.

What is The Cause of Hearing Loss in People Below The Age of 60?

There’s a very simple rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and all other people – if other people can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Your hearing can be injured when you listen to noises above 85 decibels – similar to the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. A normal mobile device with the volume turned up to the max registers at approximately 106 decibels. In this scenario, injury starts to develop in under 4 minutes.

While you would think that this stuff would be common sense, in reality kids spend as much as two hours every day on their devices, commonly 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 to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next few years. Studies reveal that smartphones and other screens activate dopamine generation in the brain’s of younger kids, which is the same effect caused by addictive drugs. It will be increasingly challenging to get kids to put down their screens, and their hearing could suffer as a result.

How Much Are Young People at Risk of Hearing Loss?

Clearly, hearing loss offers multiple challenges to anybody, irrespective of the age. But there are additional issues for young people concerning after school sports, job prospects, and even academics. The student is put at a disadvantage if they have a hard time hearing and understanding concepts in class because of early hearing loss. It also makes playing sports much more difficult, since so much of sports involves listening to coaches and teammates give instructions and call plays. Early loss of hearing can have an adverse effect on confidence as well, which puts needless hurdles in the way of teens and younger adults who are joining the workforce.

Loss of hearing can also cause persistent social issues. Kids with impaired hearing have a more difficult time connecting with peers, which often results in social and emotional problems that require therapy. People who have hearing loss can feel isolated and have depression and anxiety inevitably causing mental health problems. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly in teenagers and kids during developmental years.

How You Can Prevent Hearing Loss?

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – offending devices should be at no more than 60% of their max volume for less than 1 hour each day. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the music while sitting near them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can no longer hear it.

You might also choose to say goodbye to the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds, which are put directly in the ear, can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to conventional headphones.

Throughout the day in general, you should do anything possible to minimize your exposure to loud sound. You can’t control everything, so try and make the time you’re listening to music headphone-free. If you do suspect you’re dealing with hearing loss, you should see us as soon as possible.

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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