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

Typically, hearing loss is thought of as a problem only impacting older people – in fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of individuals aged 75 and older struggle with some kind of hearing loss. But a new study reveals that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing even though it’s totally avoidable.

A study of 479 freshmen from three high schools carried out by The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing found that there were indications of hearing loss in 34% of them. The cause? Mobile devices with headphones or earbuds connected are believed to be the most likely culprit. And older individuals are also susceptible.

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

For teenagers and everybody else, there is a basic rule for earbud volume – the volume is too high if other people can hear your music. Damage to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. If the volume is turned all the way up on a typical mobile device it’s volume is approximately 106 decibels. Your hearing is injured in under 4 minutes in these circumstances.

Though this sounds like common sense stuff, the reality is kids spend as much as two hours a day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And this time is getting longer every year according to current research. Studies reveal that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine generation in younger kids’ brains, which is exactly what addictive drugs do. Kids hearing loss will continue to multiply because it will be increasingly challenging to get them to put their screens down.

How Much Are Young People at Risk of Hearing Loss?

Regardless of age, it’s obvious that hearing loss presents countless challenges. Younger people, however, face additional issues regarding job prospects, after school sports, or even academics. Loss of hearing at a young age leads to problems with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which disadvantages the student. It also makes participating in sports much more difficult, since so much of sports requires listening to teammates and coaches give instructions and call plays. Early loss of hearing can have a detrimental effect on confidence as well, which puts unneeded obstacles in the way of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.

Social troubles can also continue because of loss of hearing. Children with compromised hearing frequently end up requiring therapy because they have a harder time with their friends due to loss of hearing. Mental health troubles are common in people of all ages who have hearing loss because they often feel isolated and have anxiety and depression. Mental health therapies and hearing loss treatment often go hand in hand, particularly during the important developmental stages experienced by teenagers and kids.

How You Can Prevent Hearing Loss?

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 1 hour per day at 60% or less of the maximum volume. If you can hear your kids music, even if they are 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. Earbuds, placed directly in the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to conventional headphones.

In general, though, do what you can to reduce your exposure to loud noises throughout the day. You can’t control everything, so try and make the time you’re listening to tunes headphone-free. And, you should see us right away if you suspect you’re already suffering from loss of hearing.