Young woman not protecting her hearing in a loud subway.

Hearing loss is usually considered an older person’s issue – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of individuals aged 75 and older suffer from some type of hearing loss. But in spite of the fact that in younger people it’s entirely preventable, research shows that they too are at risk of developing hearing loss.

In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools showed signs of hearing loss. What could be causing this? Scientists suspect that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the issue. And everyone’s at risk.

Why do people under 60 experience hearing loss?

If other people can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a basic rule for teenagers and everyone. 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. The majority of mobile devices can go well above 105dB. In this situation, damage begins to happen in less than 4 minutes.

It might seem like everybody would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And this will only increase over the next few years, if we’re to believe present research. The production of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and research has shown that smartphones and other screens can stimulate dopamine release. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more difficult to get them to put down their devices.

The risks of hearing loss in young people

Clearly, hearing loss creates numerous obstacles for anybody, regardless of age. Younger individuals, however, face additional issues with regards to academics, after-school activities, and even job prospects. Students with hearing loss face an especially difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. Sports become particularly difficult if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving instructions. Young adults and teenagers joining the workforce can experience unnecessary obstacles caused by hearing loss.

Hearing loss can also result in social issues. Kids often develop emotional and social problems which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Individuals who cope with hearing loss often feel isolated and experience mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management frequently go together and this is especially true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.

Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young

Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes per 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 the sound while sitting near them, you should have them turn it down until you can’t hear it.

You might also want to replace the earbuds and opt for the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds placed directly in the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels when compared to traditional headphones.

Whatever you can do to reduce your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will help. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t regulate what they are doing while they’re not home. And you need to get a hearing assessment for your child if you believe they might already be suffering from hearing loss.

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