An estimated 50% of individuals 75 or older have some form of hearing loss and that’s why most people think of it as an issue for older people. But in spite of the fact that in younger people it’s totally preventable, research shows that they too are in danger of experiencing hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools 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.
Why do individuals under 60 experience hearing loss?
There’s a basic rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if someone else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (about the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended periods of time, your hearing can be damaged. A typical 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 reality is that kids spend upwards of two hours a day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. They’re playing games, watching footage, or listening to music during this time. And this will only increase over the next few years, if we’re to believe present research. Research shows that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same response caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more challenging to get them to put down their devices.
Young people are in danger of hearing loss
Obviously, hearing loss creates several challenges for anyone, regardless of age. Younger individuals, however, face added issues with regards to academics, after-school activities, and even job prospects. Students with hearing loss face an especially difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. It also makes playing sports much more difficult, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates giving directions and calling plays. 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 getting into the workforce.
Hearing loss can also result in social issues. Kids often develop emotional and social problems which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. People who suffer with hearing loss often feel isolated and experience mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.
Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young
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. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear them while sitting near them, you should have them turn it down 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. In comparison to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Whatever you can do to minimize your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. You can’t control everything they do during school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home headphone-free. And you need to get a hearing test for your child if you believe they may already be dealing with hearing loss.