Hearing loss is normally considered an older person’s issue – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of individuals over 75 suffer from some type of hearing loss. But in spite of the fact that in younger people it’s entirely preventable, studies show that they too are at risk of experiencing hearing loss.
One study of 479 freshmen from three high schools discovered that 34% of those students showed symptoms of hearing loss. The cause? The thought is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the issue. And everyone’s at risk.
What causes hearing loss in individuals under 60?
There’s a simple rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if someone else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Harm to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – which is approximately the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. A typical mobile device with the volume turned all the way up clocks in at about 106 decibels. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.
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 in. They’re playing games, watching footage, or listening to music during this time. And if the latest 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 studies have revealed that smartphones and other screens can trigger the release of dopamine. It will be more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing may suffer because of it.
The dangers of hearing loss in young people
Obviously, hearing loss creates numerous difficulties for anyone, regardless of age. Younger individuals, however, face added problems with regards to academics, after-school activities, and even job possibilities. Hearing loss at a young age causes problems with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. It also makes participating in sports much harder, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates giving instructions 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.
Hearing loss can also cause social issues. Kids frequently develop emotional and social problems which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Mental health issues are common in people of all ages who have hearing loss because they often feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. 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 highest volume. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the sound, it needs to be turned down.
You might also want to replace the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds put directly inside of the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.
In general, though, do what you can to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. You can’t control everything they do while at school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home headphone-free. And if you do believe your child is dealing with hearing loss, you should have them evaluated right away.