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

Generally, hearing loss is considered to be a problem only impacting older people – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that about 50% of individuals aged 75 and older have some kind 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 avoidable.

A study of 479 freshmen from three high schools conducted by The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing discovered that 34% of those freshmen exhibited signs of hearing loss. The reason? Mobile devices with headphones or earbuds connected are thought to be the primary cause. And older individuals are also susceptible.

In People Who Are Under The Age of 60, What Causes Hearing Loss?

There’s a very simple rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if other people can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Your hearing can be damaged when you listen to sounds higher than 85 decibels – which is approximately the sound of a vacuum cleaner – over a long time period. A typical mobile device with the volume cranked up to the max registers at approximately 106 decibels. In this scenario, damage starts to occur in less than 4 minutes.

While you would think that this stuff would be common sense, the reality is kids spend as much as two hours each 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 every year according to current research. Studies reveal that dopamine is activated by smartphones and other devices that have screens, in younger kids’ brains, which is literally 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 Risks of Hearing Loss in Young People

Clearly, loss of hearing offers numerous difficulties to anyone, no matter what the age. Younger people, however, have to deal with added issues pertaining to after school sports, job prospects, or even academics. Loss of hearing at a young age results in issues with attention span and understanding information in class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. And since sports involve a lot of listening to teammates and coaches calling plays, sports become far more challenging. Early hearing loss can have an adverse effect on confidence as well, which puts unneeded roadblocks in the way of teenagers and younger adults who are entering the workforce.

Social troubles can also continue due to loss of hearing. Kids with compromised hearing often end up requiring therapy because they have a harder time with their friends because of loss of hearing. People who suffer from hearing loss can feel separated and have anxiety and depression inevitably leading to mental health concerns. Treating hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health therapy, particularly in kids and teenagers during formative years.

Preventing Hearing Loss

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 1 hour per day at 60% or less of the maximum volume. If your children listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while sitting near them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can’t hear it anymore.

You may also choose to get rid of the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Traditional headphones can produce almost 10% less volume compared to in-ear models.

Throughout the day in general, you should do everything you can to reduce your exposure to loud sound. 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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