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

Generally, loss of hearing is thought of as an issue only impacting older people – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of people who have hearing loss are 75 or older. And even though it’s frequently entirely avoidable, new research shows a shocking number of younger people are losing their hearing.

The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently conducted research on 479 freshmen from three high schools and found that there were signs of hearing loss in 34% of them. The reason? It’s thought that it could be from earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices. And older individuals are also susceptible.

What is The Cause of Hearing Loss in People Under 60?

There’s a very simple rule concerning earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if someone else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. Injury to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds higher than 85 decibels – about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for a prolonged period of time. If the volume is turned all the way up on a normal mobile device it’s volume is about 106 decibels. Your hearing is injured in less than 4 minutes in these conditions.

Although this seems like common sense stuff, in reality kids spend as much as two hours each day using their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds connected. They’re listening to music, playing games, or watching videos during this time. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next few years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine generation in younger kids’ brains, which is exactly what addictive drugs do. Kids hearing loss will continue to multiply because it will be more and more difficult to get them to put away their screens.

How Much Are Young Kids at Risk of Hearing Loss?

Obviously, hearing loss presents numerous difficulties to anybody, irrespective of the age. Young people, however, have to deal with added problems regarding academics, after school sports, and even job prospects. Hearing loss at a young age leads to problems with attention span and understanding concepts in class, which disadvantages the student. It also makes participating in sports much more difficult, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates give instructions and call plays. Early hearing loss can have an adverse effect on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary roadblocks in the way of teenagers and younger adults who are coming into the workforce.

Social troubles can also continue due to loss of hearing. Kids with damaged hearing have a more difficult time connecting with friends, which often leads to social and emotional problems that require therapy. People who suffer from loss of hearing can feel separated and have depression and anxiety inevitably causing mental health problems. Treating hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health therapy, especially in teenagers and kids during developmental years.

How You Can Avoid Hearing Loss?

The first rule to adhere to 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. If you’re able to hear your kids music, even if if the volume is at 60%, you should tell them to turn down the volume.

Also older style over-the-ear headphones might be a better choice than earbuds. Conventional headphones can produce almost 10% less volume in comparison to in-ear models.

Generally, though, do everything you can to reduce your exposure to loud noises throughout the day. You can’t control everything, so try to make the time you’re listening to tunes free of headphones. If you do think you’re suffering from hearing loss, you need to see us right away.

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