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

Typically, loss of hearing is considered to be a problem only impacting older people – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of individuals aged 75 and older have some form of hearing loss. But a new study shows 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 research on 479 freshmen across three high schools and revealed that there were indications of hearing loss in 34% of them. The reason? It’s suspected that it might be the result of earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices. And the young are not the only ones in danger of this.

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

There’s an easy rule concerning earbud volume for teenagers and all other people – if someone else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Your hearing can be damaged when you listen to noises above 85 decibels – about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. If the volume is cranked all the way up on a standard mobile device it’s volume is about 106 decibels. Your hearing is injured in less than 4 minutes in these situations.

While you would think that this stuff would be common sense, in reality kids spend in excess of two hours every day using their devices, commonly 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 increase over the next few years. Studies show that dopamine is stimulated by smartphones and other devices that have screens, in younger kids’ brains, which is exactly what addictive drugs do. It will be increasingly challenging to get kids to put down their screens, and their hearing could suffer because of it.

The Dangers of Hearing Loss in Young People

Irrespective of age, it’s obvious that hearing loss offers many struggles. Young people, though, have to deal with additional problems pertaining to job prospects, after school sports, or even academics. Hearing loss at a young age results in problems with attention span and understanding information during class, which disadvantages the student. It also makes participating in sports a lot more challenging, since so much of sports requires listening to teammates and coaches give instructions and call plays. Teenagers and younger adults who are joining the workforce will have unnecessary hurdles if their loss of hearing has a negative impact on their confidence.

Hearing loss can also result in persistent social problems. Children whose hearing is impaired have a harder time socializing with friends, which frequently results in social and emotional struggles that require therapy. Mental health troubles are ordinary in people of all ages who suffer from hearing loss because they typically feel separated and have anxiety and depression. Mental health treatment and hearing loss treatment often go hand in hand, especially in teenagers and kids during formative years.

Preventing Hearing Loss

The first rule to adhere to is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 1 hour a day at a maximum volume of 69%. If you can hear your kids music, even if if the volume is at 60%, you need to tell them to turn the volume down.

You may also choose to say goodbye to the earbuds and choose the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds, placed directly in the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels in comparison to conventional headphones.

In general, though, do whatever 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 music free of headphones. And, see us immediately if you think you are already suffering from loss of hearing.

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