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

Traditionally, loss of hearing is considered to be a problem only effecting older people – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of individuals aged 75 and older struggle with some form of hearing loss. And even though it’s often entirely avoidable, new research shows a shocking number of young people are losing their hearing.

The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently carried out research on 479 freshmen from three high schools and revealed that there were indications of hearing loss in 34% of them. Why is this occurring? It’s assumed that it could be from earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices. And the young aren’t the only ones in danger of this.

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

For teenagers and everybody else, there is a basic rule for earbud volume – the volume is too high if others can hear your music. Injury to your hearing can happen when you listen to noises above 85 decibels – about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – over a long time period. A typical mobile device with the volume turned up to the max registers at around 106 decibels. Your hearing is injured in less than 4 minutes in these circumstances.

Though this sounds like common sense stuff, the reality is kids spend as much as two hours a day using their devices, and usually they have their earbuds connected. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And this time is increasing every year according to current research. Studies show that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in the brain’s of younger kids, which is the same response triggered by addictive drugs. It will be increasingly challenging to get kids to put down their screens, and their hearing may suffer as a result.

How Much Are Young Kids at Risk of Hearing Loss?

Irrespective of age, it’s clear that loss of hearing offers a number of challenges. But there are added issues for young people regarding after school sports, job prospects, and even academics. The student is put at a disadvantage if they have a hard time hearing and comprehending concepts in class due to early hearing loss. It also makes participating in sports a lot more difficult, since so much of sports involves listening to coaches and teammates give instructions and call plays. Early loss of hearing can have an adverse effect on confidence also, which puts unnecessary obstacles in the way of teens and young adults who are entering the workforce.

Hearing loss can also lead to persistent social problems. Children with impaired hearing have a more difficult time connecting with friends, which typically results in social and emotional problems that require therapy. People who suffer from loss of hearing can feel isolated and have anxiety and depression inevitably resulting in mental health concerns. Mental health treatment and hearing loss treatment often go hand in hand, particularly during the important developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.

Avoiding Hearing Loss

The first rule to adhere to is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 1 hour a day at a maximum volume of 69%. If your children listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while you are close to them, you should have them turn it down until you can no longer hear it.

You might also choose to say goodbye to the earbuds and choose the older style over-the-ear headphones. Conventional headphones can generate almost 10% less decibels compared to in-ear models.

Generally, though, do whatever 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 tunes free of headphones. If you do suspect you’re suffering from loss of hearing, you should see us as soon as possible.