Young woman not protecting her hearing in a loud subway.

Hearing loss is usually considered an older person’s issue – in fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of people aged 75 and older suffer from some form of hearing loss. But despite the fact that in younger individuals it’s totally preventable, research shows that they too are in danger of developing hearing loss.

As a matter of fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools demonstrated signs of hearing loss. The cause? The idea is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the issue. And the young aren’t the only ones 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 basic rule for teenagers and everybody. Damage to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – which is about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. A typical mobile device with the volume turned all the way up clocks in at about 106 decibels. In this situation, damage starts to take place in under 4 minutes.

It might seem like everybody would know this but teenagers often 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 believed, this time will only increase over the next few years. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and studies have revealed that smartphones and other screens can stimulate the release of dopamine. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes harder to get them to put down their devices.

Young people are at risk of hearing loss

Clearly, hearing loss presents multiple difficulties for anyone, regardless of age. Younger people, however, face additional issues with regards to academics, after-school activities, and even job prospects. Hearing loss at a young age causes problems with paying attention and comprehending 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 instructions. Early hearing loss can have a negative impact on confidence as well, which puts unwanted obstacles in front of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.

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

Preventing hearing loss when you’re young

The first rule to observe is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes a day at 60% or less of the highest volume. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the sound, it needs to be turned down.

It also might be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and stop using earbuds. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds placed inside of the ear canal can actually create 5 to 10 extra decibels.

Whatever you can do to minimize your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t control what they’re doing while they’re not home. And if you do believe your child is suffering from hearing loss, you should have them evaluated right away.

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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.