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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 consider it a problem for older people. But despite the fact that in younger individuals it’s completely preventable, studies show that they too are at risk of experiencing hearing loss.

In fact, 34% of the 479 freshmen who were studied across 4 high schools exhibited symptoms of hearing loss. What could be causing this? The concept is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And younger people are not the only ones at risk.

Why do individuals under 60 experience hearing loss?

There’s a basic rule relating to earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if somebody else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Harm to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds louder than 85 decibels – which is about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. A typical mobile device with the volume turned all the way up is about 106 decibels. In this situation, damage begins to occur in under 4 minutes.

While this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is that kids spend well over two hours a day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. During this time, they’re listening to music, playing games, and watching video. And this will only increase over the next few years, if we’re to believe present research. The production of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and studies have demonstrated that smartphones and other screens can stimulate the release of dopamine. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more challenging to get them to put down their devices.

The risks of hearing loss in young people

Regardless of age, hearing loss clearly presents a number of difficulties. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job possibilities produce additional difficulties. Students with hearing loss face an especially difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. It also makes participating in sports much harder, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates giving instructions and calling plays. Young adults and teenagers entering the workforce can face unnecessary roadblocks caused by hearing loss.

Hearing loss can also lead to social issues. Kids often develop emotional and social issues which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Mental health problems are prevalent in individuals of all ages who cope with hearing loss because they frequently feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management often go together and this is especially true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.

How young people can avoid hearing loss

Using earbuds or headphones for no more than 60 minutes a day and at a volume 60% of max or less (the 60/60 rule) is the first rule to observe. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear them while sitting near them, you should tell them to lower the volume until you can no longer hear it.

It also may be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and stop using earbuds. Earbuds put directly inside of the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.

Whatever you can do to reduce your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will help. You can’t control everything they do while at school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home headphone-free. And if you do think your child is dealing with hearing loss, you should have them examined 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.
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