An estimated 50% of people 75 or over have some type of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it an issue for older people. But in spite of the fact that in younger people it’s entirely preventable, studies show that they too are in danger of developing hearing loss.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools showed signs of hearing loss. What could be causing this? The concept is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And younger people are not the only ones at risk.
Why do individuals under 60 experience hearing loss?
There’s a basic rule relating to earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if somebody else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. If you listen to sounds louder than 85dB (around the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. A normal mobile device with the volume turned up to the max is around 106 decibels. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.
While this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend well over two hours every day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. During this time, they’re enjoying music, playing games, and watching video. And if the latest research is to be believed, this time will only increase over the next several years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more challenging to get them to put down their devices.
The dangers of hearing loss in young people
Regardless of age, hearing loss clearly creates numerous challenges. Younger individuals, however, face additional problems with regards to academics, after-school activities, and even job possibilities. Students with hearing loss face a really difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts. It also makes playing 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 roadblocks in the way of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.
Hearing loss can also cause social problems. Kids who have damaged hearing have a more difficult time interacting with peers, which frequently leads to social and emotional issues that require therapy. Individuals who suffer with hearing loss often feel isolated and experience mental health problems like 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.
Preventing hearing loss when you’re young
Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes per day and at a volume 60% of maximum or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to follow. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.
You might also want to ditch the earbuds and opt for the older style over-the-ear headphones. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Generally, 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 free of headphones. And you should get a hearing examination for your child if you think they might already be suffering from hearing loss.