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Young woman not protecting her hearing in a loud subway.

Hearing loss is commonly considered an older person’s issue – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of people over 75 copes with some type of hearing loss. But despite the fact that in younger people it’s entirely preventable, studies show that they too are in danger of developing hearing loss.

One study of 479 freshmen across three high schools found that 34% of those students showed signs of hearing loss. The cause? Researchers believe that earbuds and headphones linked to mobile devices are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.

What causes hearing loss in individuals under 60?

If other people can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a basic rule for teenagers and everybody. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (around the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. Most mobile devices can go well above 105dB. Utilized in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause injury.

It may seem as if everyone would know this but teenagers frequently have their headphones in for hours at a time. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And this will only increase over the next few years, if we’re to believe current research. Studies show that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. It will be more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing might suffer because of it.

Young people are at risk of hearing loss

Regardless of age, hearing loss clearly creates numerous difficulties. Younger people, however, face additional problems regarding academics, after-school activities, and even job prospects. Students with hearing loss face a particularly difficult time hearing and understanding concepts. Sports become especially hard if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving instructions. Young adults and teenagers entering the workforce can face unnecessary roadblocks due to hearing loss.

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

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 adhere to. Even at 60%, if other people can still hear the sound, it needs to be turned down.

It also may be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and quit using earbuds. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds put 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 help. You can’t regulate everything they do during school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home free of headphones. And if you do think your child is suffering from hearing loss, you should have them assessed as soon as possible.

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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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