Hearing Health Blog

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

Hearing loss is typically considered an older person’s concern – in fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of people aged 75 and older have some kind of hearing loss. And though it’s often totally avoidable, new research shows a shocking number of younger people are losing their hearing.

A study of 479 freshmen from three high schools conducted by The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing revealed that there were indications of hearing loss in 34% of them. Why is this occurring? Mobile devices with earbuds or headphones connected are believed to be the culprit. And older individuals are also at risk.

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

There’s a simple rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – it’s too loud if others can hear your music. Your hearing can be damaged when you listen to sounds higher than 85 decibels – similar to the volume of a vacuum cleaner – over a long time period. If the volume is turned all the way up on a normal mobile device it’s volume is around 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 as much as two hours each day on their devices, and ordinarily they have their earbuds connected. They’re listening to music, playing games, or watching videos during this time. And if current research is correct, this time will only increase over the next few years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production 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 may suffer as a result.

The Dangers of Hearing Loss in Young People

Regardless of age, it’s obvious that loss of hearing presents several difficulties. But there are added problems for young people concerning job prospects, after school sports, or even academics. Loss of hearing at a young age results in issues with attention span and understanding information during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. And because sports require a lot of listening to teammates and coaches calling plays, sports become far more challenging. Teenagers and young adults who are going into the workforce will have unnecessary challenges if their loss of hearing has a detrimental impact on their confidence.

Social issues can also persist due to loss of hearing. Kids whose hearing is damaged often wind up requiring therapy because they have a more difficult time with their peers due to loss of hearing. Mental health concerns are common in people of all ages who have hearing loss because they commonly feel separated and have anxiety and depression. Mental health therapies and hearing loss management often go hand in hand, especially in kids and teenagers during formative years.

How You Can Steer Clear of Hearing Loss?

The first rule to adhere to is the 60/60 rule – offending devices should be at less than 60% of their max volume for less than 1 hour a day. If you’re able to hear your kids music, even if if the volume is at 60%, you need to ask them to turn the volume down.

You may also want to say goodbye to the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Conventional headphones can produce almost 10% less volume compared to in-ear models.

Generally speaking, though, do what you can to limit your exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. You can’t control everything, so try to make the time you’re listening to music free of headphones. And, you should see us immediately if you suspect you’re already suffering from loss of hearing.

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