Young woman not protecting her hearing in a loud subway.

Hearing loss is normally considered an older person’s problem – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of people aged 75 and older copes with some type of hearing loss. But studies show that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s entirely preventable.

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

What causes hearing loss in people under 60?

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 louder 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 turned all the way up is about 106 decibels. In this scenario, damage starts to happen in under 4 minutes.

While this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend upwards of two hours a day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds in. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next few years. The production of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and research has shown that smartphones and other screens can activate dopamine release. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more difficult to get them to put their screens down.

Young people are at risk of hearing loss

Regardless of age, hearing loss clearly creates a number of obstacles. Younger people, however, face added issues regarding academics, after-school sports, and even job possibilities. Hearing loss at a young age leads to issues with paying attention and comprehending concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. It also makes participating in sports much more difficult, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates giving directions and calling plays. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental impact on confidence as well, which puts unwanted obstacles in the way of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.

Hearing loss can also cause social problems. Kids who have damaged hearing have a more difficult time socializing with peers, which often leads to social and emotional problems that require therapy. People who cope with hearing loss frequently feel isolated and experience mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Treating hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.

Preventing hearing loss when you’re young

The first rule to observe is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes a day at 60% or less of the highest volume. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear them while sitting near them, you should tell them to lower the volume until you can no longer hear it.

You might also want to ditch 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 when compared to traditional headphones.

Whatever you can do to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t control what they are doing while they’re not home. And if you do think your child is suffering from hearing loss, you should have them assessed as soon as possible.

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References

https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/quick-statistics-hearing
https://newsie.co.nz/news/163631-deaf-foundation-blames-earbuds-phones-teens-hearing-loss.html
https://time.com/4989275/young-children-tablets-mobile-devices/
https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52500-Hearing-loss-among-kids-and-teens
https://hearinghealthfoundation.org/blogs/protecting-your-hearing-means-protecting-your-mental-health
https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/earbuds.html

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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