Hearing loss is typically thought of as an older person’s issue – in fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of people who have loss of hearing are 75 or older. But new research reveals that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s totally avoidable.
The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently carried out a study of 479 freshmen from three high schools and found that 34% of those youngsters showed signs of hearing loss. Why is this occurring? It’s assumed that it could be the result of headphones and earbuds connected to mobile devices. And younger people aren’t the only ones in danger of this.
What Causes Hearing Loss in People Under 60?
For teenagers and everyone else, there is a simple rule for earbud volume – if others can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Your hearing can be injured when you listen to noises above 85 decibels – about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. A normal mobile device with the volume turned up all the way clocks in at approximately 106 decibels. Your hearing is damaged in less than 4 minutes in these conditions.
Though this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is kids spend as much as two hours every day on their devices, and ordinarily they have their earbuds connected. They’re listening to music, playing games, or watching videos during this time. And this time is increasing every year according to current research. Studies illustrate that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine generation in the brain’s of younger kids, which is the same reaction triggered by addictive drugs. Kids hearing loss will continue to multiply because it will be more and more challenging to get them to put their screens down.
The Challenges of Hearing Loss in Young People
Obviously, loss of hearing offers multiple challenges to anyone, irrespective of the age. But there are additional issues for young people concerning after school sports, job prospects, and even academics. Hearing loss at a young age leads to problems with attention span and understanding information in class, which disadvantages the student. And since sports require a lot of listening to coaches and teammates calling plays, sports become far harder. Early loss of hearing can have a detrimental effect on confidence also, which puts unnecessary hurdles in the way of teens and younger adults who are entering the workforce.
Social struggles can also continue because of hearing loss. Kids whose hearing is impaired frequently wind up needing therapy because they have a more difficult time with their friends because of loss of hearing. Mental health issues are typical in people of all ages who suffer from hearing loss because they often feel isolated and have anxiety and depression. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health therapy, especially during the important developmental periods experienced by kids and teenagers.
Preventing Hearing Loss
The first rule to adhere to is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 1 hour per day at a maximum volume of 69%. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the music while you are near them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can’t hear it anymore.
You may also want to say goodbye to the earbuds and choose the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds, placed directly in the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels in comparison to traditional headphones.
Generally, though, do whatever you can to limit your exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. You can’t control everything, so try to make the time you’re listening to music headphone-free. If you do think you are suffering from loss of hearing, you need to see us right away.