Young woman not protecting her hearing in a loud subway.

Hearing loss is commonly considered an older person’s issue – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of individuals aged 75 and older copes with some type of hearing loss. But in spite of the fact that in younger people it’s totally preventable, research shows that they too are in danger of developing hearing loss.

As a matter of fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools showed symptoms 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 individuals under 60 get hearing loss?

If others can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a basic rule for teenagers and everybody. Harm to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – which is about the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. A standard mobile device with the volume turned up to the max clocks in at around 106 decibels. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.

While this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend well over two hours a day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds in. During this time, they’re listening to music, playing games, and watching video. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next several years. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and studies have shown that smartphones and other screens can activate the release of dopamine. It will be harder and harder to get screens away from kids, and their hearing could suffer because of it.

Young people are in danger of hearing loss

Clearly, hearing loss presents several challenges for anybody, regardless of age. For younger individuals though, after school activities, sports, and job prospects create additional challenges. Students with hearing loss face an especially difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts. It also makes playing sports much harder, since so much of sports involves listening to coaches and teammates giving directions and calling plays. Early hearing loss can have a negative impact on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary obstacles in front of teenagers and young adults who are getting into the workforce.

Social problems can also persist as a result of hearing loss. Kids with damaged hearing have a more difficult time interacting with peers, which often leads to social and emotional issues that require therapy. Mental health problems are common in people of all ages who have hearing loss because they frequently feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.

How young people can avoid hearing loss

Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes a day and at a volume 60% of max or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to adhere to. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear them while sitting near them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can no longer hear it.

You may also want to replace the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds placed directly into the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.

Whatever you can do to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. You can’t control everything they do while at school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home free of headphones. And if you do think your child is suffering from hearing loss, you should have them evaluated right away.

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