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

Hearing loss is generally considered an older person’s problem – in fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of people who suffer from hearing loss 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 totally avoidable.

A study of 479 freshmen from three high schools conducted by The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing found that 34% of those freshmen showed signs of hearing loss. Why is this occurring? Mobile devices with earbuds or headphones connected are believed to be the culprit. And older people are also susceptible.

What Causes Hearing Loss in People Below The Age of 60?

There’s an easy rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – the volume is too high if others can hear your music. Your hearing can be injured when you listen to sounds higher than 85 decibels – which is approximately the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. A normal mobile device with the volume cranked up to the max registers at approximately 106 decibels. In this scenario, damage begins to occur in under 4 minutes.

While this seems like common sense stuff, in reality kids spend upwards of two hours every day using their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds connected. During this time they’re listening to music, watching videos, or playing games. And this time is getting longer every year according to current research. Studies reveal that dopamine is activated by smartphones and other devices with screens, in the brain’s of younger kids, which is the same reaction triggered by addictive drugs. Kids loss of hearing will continue to increase because it will be more and more difficult to get them to put away their screens.

How Much Are Young Kids in Danger of Hearing Loss?

Irrespective of age, it’s obvious that hearing loss presents numerous struggles. Younger people, however, face additional issues pertaining to academics, after school sports, and even job prospects. Loss of hearing at a young age leads to problems with attention span and understanding information during class, which disadvantages the student. And because sports involve a lot of listening to coaches and teammates calling plays, sports become a lot more challenging. 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 coming into the workforce.

Social struggles can also persist because of hearing loss. Kids whose hearing is impaired have a more difficult time connecting with peers, which frequently results in social and emotional struggles that require therapy. Mental health concerns are ordinary in people of all ages who have hearing loss because they commonly feel separated and experience depression and anxiety. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management often go hand in hand, particularly in kids and teenagers during formative years.

Preventing Hearing Loss

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – offending devices should be at less than 60% of their max volume for less than 1 hour each day. If your children listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the music while you are near them, you should have them 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, which are put directly in the ear, can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.

Throughout the day in general, you should do anything you can to minimize your exposure to loud noise. If you try to listen to your tunes without headphones, that is one of the few things you can control. And, see us immediately if you think you are already suffering from hearing loss.

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