Hearing loss is typically considered an older person’s problem – in fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of people aged 75 and older copes with some kind of hearing loss. But despite the fact that in younger people it’s entirely preventable, studies show that they too are in danger of experiencing hearing loss.
In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools demonstrated signs of hearing loss. What could be causing this? The concept is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.
Why do people under 60 experience hearing loss?
There’s a simple rule regarding 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 (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 all the way up 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 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 reaction caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes harder to get them to put their screens down.
Young people are at risk of hearing loss
Clearly, hearing loss presents multiple difficulties for anybody, regardless of age. Younger individuals, however, face additional problems with regards to academics, after-school sports, and even job prospects. Students with hearing loss face an especially difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. Sports become particularly 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 unnecessary roadblocks in front of teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce.
Social problems can also persist due to hearing loss. Kids often develop emotional and social problems which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Mental health issues are common in individuals of all ages who cope with hearing loss because they often feel isolated and experience anxiety and depression. Treating hearing loss often needs to 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 a day at 60% or less of the maximum volume. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the sound, it needs to be turned down.
You might also want to ditch the earbuds and opt for the older style over-the-ear headphones. In comparison to traditional headphones, earbuds put inside of the ear canal can actually produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.
Whatever you can do to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. 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 should get a hearing test for your child if you think they might already be dealing with hearing loss.