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

Hearing loss is generally considered an older person’s problem – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of individuals who have hearing loss are 75 or older. But a new study shows that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing even though it’s totally preventable.

The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently carried out research on 479 freshmen across three high schools and found that there were signs of hearing loss in 34% of them. Why is this happening? Mobile devices with earbuds or headphones connected are suspected to be the most likely culprit. And younger people aren’t the only ones at risk.

What Causes Hearing Loss in People Below The Age of 60?

For teenagers and everyone else, there is a simple rule for earbud volume – if someone else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Your hearing can be damaged when you listen to noises higher than 85 decibels – which is approximately the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. A normal mobile device with the volume cranked up all the way clocks in at approximately 106 decibels. In this circumstance, injury starts to develop in under 4 minutes.

Although this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is kids spend as much as two hours every day using their devices, and normally they have their earbuds connected. During this time they’re watching videos, listening to music, or playing games. And this time is increasing every year according to current research. Studies illustrate that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine generation in younger kids’ brains, which is literally what addictive drugs do. It will be more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing may suffer as a result.

How Much Are Young Kids in Danger of Hearing Loss?

Irrespective of age, it’s clear that hearing loss offers numerous difficulties. Young people, however, face additional issues pertaining to academics, after school sports, and even job prospects. The student is disadvantaged if they have a difficult time hearing and understanding concepts in class because of early loss of hearing. It also makes playing sports a lot more challenging, since so much of sports includes listening to coaches and teammates give instructions and call plays. Early loss of hearing can have a detrimental effect on confidence too, which puts unnecessary obstacles in the way of teens and young adults who are joining the workforce.

Hearing loss can also lead to persistent social issues. Children whose hearing is impaired frequently end up needing therapy because they have a harder time with their friends because of loss of hearing. People who have loss of hearing can feel separated and have depression and anxiety inevitably leading to mental health issues. Dealing with hearing loss in many cases must go hand-in-hand with mental health therapy, particularly in teenagers and kids during developmental years.

Avoiding 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 maximum volume. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the music while you are close to them, you should have them turn it down until you can no longer hear it.

Also older style over-the-ear headphones may be a better choice than earbuds. Earbuds, which are put directly in the ear, can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.

Generally, though, do everything you can to minimize your exposure to loud noises throughout the day. If you try to listen to your tunes without headphones, that is one of the few things you can control. And, see us immediately if you think you are already suffering from loss of hearing.

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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