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Young woman not protecting her hearing in a loud subway.

An estimated 50% of individuals 75 or older have some type of hearing loss and that’s why most people think of it as a problem for older people. But in spite of the fact that in younger individuals it’s entirely preventable, studies show that they too are in danger of experiencing hearing loss.

One study of 479 freshmen from three high schools discovered that 34% of those students showed signs of hearing loss. The cause? Scientists believe that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And the young aren’t the only ones at risk.

Why do individuals under 60 experience hearing loss?

There’s a simple rule relating to earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if someone else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. 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 up to the max clocks in at around 106 decibels. In this scenario, damage starts to take place in under 4 minutes.

While this sounds like common sense stuff, the reality is that kids spend well over two hours a day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds in. During this time, they’re enjoying music, playing games, and watching video. And if current research is to be accepted, this time will only increase over the next several years. Research shows that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same response caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more difficult to get them to put their screens down.

Young people are at risk of hearing loss

Clearly, hearing loss presents several challenges for anyone, regardless of age. Younger individuals, however, face additional problems regarding academics, after-school sports, and even job prospects. Students with hearing loss face an especially difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts. It also makes participating in sports much harder, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates giving instructions and calling plays. Young adults and teenagers entering the workforce can encounter unnecessary obstacles due to hearing loss.

Social issues can also persist due to hearing loss. Kids frequently develop emotional and social problems which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. People who cope with hearing loss frequently feel isolated and experience mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly during the important developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.

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 sound, it needs to be turned down.

You might also want to ditch the earbuds and opt for the older style over-the-ear headphones. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually create 5 to 10 extra decibels.

In general, though, do what you can to reduce your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t regulate 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.
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