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

Hearing loss is generally thought to be an older person’s issue – in fact, it’s estimated that about 50% of individuals who suffer from loss of hearing are 75 or older. But new research shows that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s absolutely avoidable.

The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently carried out a study of 479 freshmen spanning three high schools and discovered that there were signs of hearing loss in 34% of them. The cause? It’s thought that it could be from earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices. And older individuals are also at risk.

What is The Cause of Hearing Loss in People Below The Age of 60?

There’s an easy rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – the volume is too high if others can hear your music. Injury to your hearing can happen when you listen to noises higher than 85 decibels – which is approximately the volume of a vacuum cleaner – over a long period of time. A typical mobile device with the volume cranked up to the max registers at about 106 decibels. Your hearing is injured in less than 4 minutes in these situations.

While this sounds like common sense stuff, in reality kids spend around two hours every day on their devices, and usually they have their earbuds plugged in. During this time they’re watching videos, listening to music, or playing games. And this time is getting longer each year according to current research. Studies show that dopamine is activated by smartphones and other devices that have screens, in younger kids’ brains, which is the same effect triggered by addictive drugs. It will be more and more challenging to get screens away from kids, and their hearing may suffer as a result.

The Risks of Hearing Loss in Young People

Regardless of age, it’s obvious that hearing loss presents numerous challenges. Young people, though, have to deal with added issues pertaining to after school sports, job prospects, and even academics. The student is disadvantaged if they have a hard time hearing and understanding concepts in class because of early hearing loss. It also makes playing sports a lot more difficult, since so much of sports entails listening to coaches and teammates give instructions and call plays. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on confidence too, which puts needless hurdles in the way of teens and young adults who are entering the workforce.

Hearing loss can also lead to persistent social problems. Kids with impaired hearing commonly wind up needing therapy because they have a harder time with their peers because of loss of hearing. Mental health issues are common in people of all ages who suffer from hearing loss because they commonly feel isolated and experience anxiety and depression. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management often go hand in hand, especially during the significant developmental phases experienced by kids and teenagers.

How You Can Prevent Hearing Loss?

The first rule to adhere to is the 60/60 rule – offending devices should be at no more than 60% of their max volume for no more than 1 hour each day. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while you are close to them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can’t hear it anymore.

Also older style over-the-ear headphones might be a better choice than earbuds. Earbuds, placed directly in the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.

Throughout the day in general, you should do anything you can to reduce your exposure to loud noise. You can’t control everything, so try to make the time you’re listening to tunes free of headphones. If you do think you are dealing with loss of hearing, you should see us as soon as possible.

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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