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

Hearing loss is traditionally thought to be an older person’s issue – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of individuals aged 75 and up have some type of hearing loss. But a new study reveals that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s absolutely preventable.

The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently conducted a study of 479 freshmen across three high schools and revealed that there were signs of hearing loss in 34% of them. Why is this happening? Mobile devices with earbuds or headphones connected are thought to be the culprit. And the young are not the only ones at risk.

In Individuals Who Are Under The Age of 60, What Causes Hearing Loss?

For teenagers and everyone else, there is a basic rule for earbud volume – if others can hear your music, then the volume is too high. Your hearing can be damaged when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – over a long period of time. A typical mobile device with the volume cranked up to the max clocks in at approximately 106 decibels. In this situation, damage starts to occur in less than 4 minutes.

While you might think that this stuff would be common sense, in reality kids spend around two hours a day using their devices, commonly with their earphones or earbuds connected. During this time they’re listening to music, watching videos, or playing games. And this time is increasing every year according to current research. Studies show that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in the brain’s of younger kids, which is the same response triggered by addictive drugs. Kids loss of hearing will continue to increase because it will be more and more challenging to get them to put away their screens.

The Risks of Hearing Loss in Young People

Clearly, loss of hearing offers many challenges to anyone, no matter what the age. But there are additional problems for young people pertaining to after school sports, job prospects, or even academics. The student is put at a disadvantage if they have a difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts in class due to early loss of hearing. It also makes participating in sports much more difficult, since so much of sports includes listening to teammates and coaches give instructions and call plays. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on confidence as well, which puts unneeded roadblocks in the way of teens and younger adults who are joining the workforce.

Social issues can also persist due to loss of hearing. Kids whose hearing is impaired commonly wind up requiring therapy because they have a more difficult time with their friends due to loss of hearing. People who suffer from hearing loss can feel separated and have depression and anxiety inevitably leading to mental health problems. Dealing with hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health therapy, especially during the important developmental phases experienced by kids and teenagers.

Avoiding Hearing Loss

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 1 hour a day at 60% or less of the maximum volume. If you can hear your kids music, even if if the volume is at 60%, you should tell them to turn the volume down.

Also older style over-the-ear headphones may be a better choice than earbuds. Traditional headphones can generate almost 10% less volume compared to in-ear models.

Generally, though, do everything you can to minimize your exposure to loud noises throughout the day. If you try to listen to your tunes without headphones, that is one of the few things you can keep have control of. And, you should see us right away if you think you are already suffering from hearing loss.

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