Hearing loss is commonly considered an older person’s problem – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of individuals aged 75 and older suffer from some form of hearing loss. But studies show that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing despite the fact that it’s totally avoidable.
One study of 479 freshmen from three high schools found that 34% of those students showed symptoms of hearing loss. The cause? Researchers believe that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the issue. And younger people are not the only ones at risk.
What causes hearing loss in people under 60?
If others can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everybody. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (about the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended periods of time, your hearing can be damaged. Most mobile devices can go well above 105dB. Utilized 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 a 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 this will only increase over the next several years, if we’re to believe present research. The production of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and studies have revealed that smartphones and other screens can activate dopamine release. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes harder to get them to put their screens down.
Young people are in danger of hearing loss
Regardless of age, hearing loss obviously creates a number of challenges. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job possibilities create additional challenges. Students with hearing loss face a particularly difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. Sports become especially hard if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving directions. Early hearing loss can have a negative impact on confidence as well, which puts unwanted obstacles in the way of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.
Hearing loss can also cause social issues. Kids with damaged hearing have a more difficult time interacting with peers, which frequently causes social and emotional issues that require therapy. Individuals who cope with hearing loss often feel isolated and experience mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management frequently go together and this is particularly true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.
Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young
Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes a day and at a volume 60% of max or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to adhere to. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while sitting close to them, you should tell them to lower the volume until you can’t hear it.
You may also want to ditch the earbuds and opt for the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds put directly in 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. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t regulate what they’re doing when they’re not home. And you need to get a hearing assessment for your child if you believe they might already be dealing with hearing loss.
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