Young woman not protecting her hearing in a loud subway.

Hearing loss is normally considered an older person’s issue – in fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of individuals over 75 suffer from some form of hearing loss. But studies show that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they’re losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s totally avoidable.

As a matter of fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools showed symptoms of hearing loss. The cause? The concept is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.

What causes hearing loss in people under 60?

If other people can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everyone. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (about the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended periods of time, your hearing can be damaged. A normal mobile device with the volume turned all the way up is about 106 decibels. In this scenario, damage begins to happen in under 4 minutes.

While this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend upwards of two hours every day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds in. During this time, they’re listening to music, playing games, and watching video. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next few years. Research shows that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. It will be harder and harder to get screens away from kids, and their hearing may suffer because of it.

Young people are at risk of hearing loss

Clearly, hearing loss creates several difficulties for anybody, regardless of age. Younger people, however, face additional issues with regards to academics, after-school activities, and even job possibilities. Hearing loss at a young age causes issues with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. Sports become especially difficult if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving instructions. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental impact on confidence as well, which puts unwanted roadblocks in front of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.

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

Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young

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 observe. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear them while sitting close to them, you should have them turn it down until you can’t hear it.

You may also want to ditch the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. In comparison to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.

Whatever you can do to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will help. 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 you should get a hearing examination for your child if you believe they might already be suffering from 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.