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

Generally, loss of hearing is considered to be a problem only impacting older people – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that about 50% of people who suffer from hearing loss are 75 or older. 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 totally preventable.

The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently conducted research on 479 freshmen spanning three high schools and found that 34% of those students exhibited signs of hearing loss. Why is this happening? Mobile devices with headphones or earbuds connected are believed to be the primary cause. And the young are not the only ones at risk.

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

For teenagers and everybody else, there is a basic rule for earbud volume – if someone else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. Injury to your hearing can develop when you listen to noises higher than 85 decibels – similar to the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for a prolonged period of time. A normal mobile device with the volume turned up all the way registers at approximately 106 decibels. In this circumstance, injury begins to develop in less than 4 minutes.

While this sounds like common sense stuff, the reality is kids spend upwards of two hours every day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds connected. They’re listening to music, playing games, or watching videos during this time. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next few years. Studies reveal that dopamine is stimulated by smartphones and other devices with screens, in the brain’s of younger kids, which is the same reaction triggered by addictive drugs. Kids hearing loss will continue to multiply because it will be more and more challenging to get them to put away their screens.

How Much Are Young People at Risk of Hearing Loss?

Regardless of age, it’s obvious that loss of hearing presents several struggles. Younger people, however, face added problems concerning job prospects, after school sports, or even academics. The student is put at a disadvantage if they have a hard time hearing and comprehending concepts during class because of early hearing loss. It also makes playing sports a lot more difficult, since so much of sports involves listening to coaches and teammates give instructions and call plays. Teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce will have unnecessary challenges if their hearing loss has a detrimental effect on their self-esteem.

Social troubles can also continue due to hearing loss. Kids with damaged hearing commonly wind up needing therapy because they have a more difficult time with their friends due to loss of hearing. Mental health issues are typical in people of all ages who suffer from hearing loss because they often feel separated and have anxiety and depression. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health therapy, particularly during the important formative stages experienced by teenagers and kids.

How You Can Avoid Hearing Loss?

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – offending devices should be at no more than 60% of their max volume for no more than 1 hour per day. If you’re able to hear your kids headphones, even if if the volume is at 60%, you need to ask them to turn down the volume.

You may also choose to ditch the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds, which are put directly in the ear, can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to conventional headphones.

In general, though, do what you can to minimize your exposure to loud noises throughout the day. If you try to listen to your music 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’re already suffering from hearing loss.

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