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 almost 50% of people aged 75 and older copes with some type of hearing loss. But despite the fact that in younger individuals it’s completely 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 demonstrated symptoms of hearing loss. What could be causing this? Scientists believe that earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices are contributing to the issue. And everyone’s at risk.

What causes hearing loss in individuals under 60?

If others can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everybody. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (around the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. A standard mobile device with the volume turned all the way up clocks in at around 106 decibels. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause damage.

It might seem like everybody would know this but teenagers often have their headphones in for hours at a time. During this time, they’re listening to music, playing games, and watching video. And this will only increase over the next few years, if we’re to believe present research. Research shows that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. It will become harder and harder to get screens away from kids, and their hearing may suffer because of it.

The risks of hearing loss in young people

Clearly, hearing loss creates several difficulties for anyone, regardless of age. Younger people, however, face additional issues with regards to academics, after-school activities, and even job prospects. Hearing loss at a young age causes 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 negative impact on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary roadblocks in front of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.

Social issues can also continue due to hearing loss. Kids who have damaged hearing have a harder time connecting with peers, which often causes social and emotional issues that require therapy. Individuals who cope with hearing loss frequently feel isolated and experience mental health problems 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.

How young people can prevent hearing loss

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. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.

You might also want to ditch the earbuds and opt for the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds put directly inside of the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels when compared to traditional headphones.

In general, though, do what you can to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t control what they’re doing when they’re not home. And you need to get a hearing examination for your child if you think they might already be dealing with hearing loss.

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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.