An estimated 50% of individuals over the age of 75 have some level of hearing loss and that’s why most people consider it an issue for older people. But despite the fact that in younger people it’s completely preventable, studies show that they too are at risk of experiencing hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools showed signs of hearing loss. What could be causing this? The idea is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.
Why do individuals under 60 experience hearing loss?
If other people can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everybody. If you listen to sounds louder than 85dB (about the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. A standard mobile device with the volume turned up to the max is about 106 decibels. Utilized in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause damage.
While this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend upwards of two hours a day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. They’re playing games, watching footage, or listening to music during this time. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next few years. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and research has demonstrated that smartphones and other screens can stimulate dopamine release. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more difficult to get them to put down their devices.
Young people are at risk of hearing loss
Regardless of age, hearing loss obviously presents a number of difficulties. Younger individuals, however, face added problems regarding academics, after-school activities, and even job possibilities. Hearing loss at a young age leads to problems with paying attention and comprehending concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. Sports become especially challenging if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving directions. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on confidence as well, which puts unwanted obstacles in front of teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce.
Social problems can also persist as a result of hearing loss. Kids who have damaged hearing have a harder time socializing with peers, which often causes social and emotional problems that require therapy. Mental health problems are common in individuals of all ages who have hearing loss because they often feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young
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 maximum volume. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while sitting near them, you should tell them to lower the volume until you can no longer hear it.
It also may be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and quit using earbuds. Earbuds put directly in the ear can actually generate 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 during the day. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t regulate what they are doing when they’re not home. And you should get a hearing assessment for your child if you believe they might already be dealing with hearing loss.