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

Hearing loss is generally considered an older person’s issue – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that about 50% of people who have 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 even though it’s absolutely preventable.

The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently carried out a study of 479 freshmen spanning three high schools and revealed that 34% of those youngsters exhibited signs of hearing loss. The reason? It’s thought that it might be the result of earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices. And older individuals are also at risk.

What is The Cause of Hearing Loss in People Below The Age of 60?

There’s an easy rule concerning earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – the volume is too high if others can hear your music. Your hearing can be damaged when you listen to noises above 85 decibels – which is about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – over a long period of time. If the volume is cranked all the way up on a standard mobile device it’s volume is approximately 106 decibels. In this circumstance, injury starts to occur in under 4 minutes.

While you would think that this stuff would be common sense, the reality is kids spend upwards of two hours a day using their devices, and usually they have their earbuds plugged in. During this time they’re watching videos, listening to music, or playing games. And this time is getting longer each year according to current research. Studies show that smartphones and other screens activate dopamine generation in younger kids’ brains, which is exactly what addictive drugs do. It will be increasingly difficult to get kids to put down their screens, and their hearing could suffer because of it.

How Much Are Young People in Danger of Hearing Loss?

Regardless of age, it’s obvious that loss of hearing offers many challenges. Young people, though, have to deal with additional problems regarding after school sports, job prospects, or even academics. The student is disadvantaged if they have a difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts in class because of early hearing loss. 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 young adults who are going into the workforce will have unnecessary obstacles if their loss of hearing has a detrimental impact on their confidence.

Hearing loss can also cause persistent social problems. Kids whose hearing is impaired have a harder time interacting with peers, which frequently results in social and emotional struggles that require therapy. People who suffer from hearing loss can feel isolated and have depression and anxiety inevitably leading to mental health problems. Dealing with hearing loss in many cases must go hand-in-hand with mental health therapy, particularly during the significant developmental periods experienced by kids and teenagers.

Avoiding 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 less than 1 hour a day. If your children listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while you are near them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can’t hear it anymore.

Also older style over-the-ear headphones might be a better idea than earbuds. Traditional headphones can produce almost 10% less volume compared to in-ear models.

Generally, though, do whatever you can to minimize your exposure to loud noises throughout the day. If you try to listen to your tunes without headphones, that is one of the few things you can keep have control of. And, you should see us right away if you suspect you’re already suffering from loss of hearing.

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