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Young woman not protecting her hearing in a loud subway.

An estimated 50% of individuals 75 or over have some type of hearing loss and that’s why most people think of it as an issue for older people. But research reveals that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s totally avoidable.

One study of 479 freshmen from three high schools revealed that 34% of those students showed symptoms of hearing loss. The cause? The thought is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the issue. And the young aren’t the only ones at risk.

Why do individuals under 60 get hearing loss?

There’s a simple rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if somebody else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (about the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended periods of time, your hearing can be damaged. The majority of mobile devices can go well above 105dB. In this situation, damage begins to happen in less than 4 minutes.

It might seem like everybody would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. They’re playing games, watching footage, or listening to music during this time. And if the latest research is to be accepted, this time will only increase over the next few years. Research shows that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more challenging to get them to put their screens down.

The risks of hearing loss in young people

Obviously, hearing loss presents numerous difficulties for anyone, regardless of age. For younger individuals though, after school activities, sports, and job possibilities create additional challenges. Hearing loss at a young age leads to problems with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. Sports become particularly difficult if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving directions. Young adults and teenagers joining the workforce can encounter unnecessary obstacles due to hearing loss.

Hearing loss can also cause social problems. Kids with damaged hearing have a more difficult time socializing with peers, which often causes social and emotional issues that require therapy. Mental health issues are common in individuals of all ages who cope with hearing loss because they often feel isolated and experience anxiety and depression. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management often go together and this is particularly 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 maximum or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to follow. Even at 60%, if other people can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.

You may also want to replace 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 produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.

Whatever you can do to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. You can’t control everything they do while at school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home free of headphones. And you should get a hearing test for your child if you think they may already be dealing with hearing loss.

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References

https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/quick-statistics-hearing
https://newsie.co.nz/news/163631-deaf-foundation-blames-earbuds-phones-teens-hearing-loss.html
https://time.com/4989275/young-children-tablets-mobile-devices/
https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52500-Hearing-loss-among-kids-and-teens
https://hearinghealthfoundation.org/blogs/protecting-your-hearing-means-protecting-your-mental-health
https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/earbuds.html

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.