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

Hearing loss is typically thought of as an older person’s problem – in fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of individuals who have loss of hearing are 75 or older. But new research 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 totally avoidable.

The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently conducted research on 479 freshmen from three high schools and discovered that 34% of those youngsters exhibited signs of hearing loss. The reason? It’s suspected that it might be from headphones and earbuds connected to mobile devices. And older people are also susceptible.

What is The Cause of Hearing Loss in People Under 60?

For teenagers and everybody else, there is a basic rule for earbud volume – the volume is too high if others can hear your music. Your hearing can be damaged when you listen to noises above 85 decibels – about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – over a long period of time. A normal mobile device with the volume cranked up to the max clocks in at approximately 106 decibels. In this circumstance, damage begins to develop in less than 4 minutes.

While you might think that this stuff would be common sense, in reality kids spend around two hours a day using their devices, and normally they have their earbuds connected. During this time they’re watching videos, listening to music, or playing games. And this time is getting longer each year according to current research. Studies show that dopamine is activated by smartphones and other devices with screens, in the brain’s of younger kids, which is the same response caused by addictive drugs. Kids loss of hearing will continue to increase because it will be more and more challenging to get them to put away their screens.

How Much Are Young People in Danger of Hearing Loss?

Obviously, hearing loss offers several challenges to anybody, no matter what the age. Younger people, however, have to deal with additional problems concerning academics, after school sports, and even job prospects. Loss of hearing at a young age causes problems with attention span and understanding concepts during class, which disadvantages the student. It also makes participating in sports a lot more difficult, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates give instructions and call plays. Early hearing loss can have an adverse effect on confidence also, which puts needless obstacles in the way of teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce.

Hearing loss can also result in persistent social issues. Kids with damaged hearing have a harder time connecting with peers, which typically leads to emotional and social problems that require therapy. People who have loss of hearing can feel isolated and have depression and anxiety inevitably resulting in mental health problems. Mental health treatment and hearing loss treatment often go hand in hand, especially in kids and teenagers during developmental years.

Avoiding Hearing Loss

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – offending devices should be at less than 60% of their maximum volume for no more than 1 hour per day. If you can hear your kids headphones, even if they are at 60%, you should ask them to turn the volume down.

Also older style over-the-ear headphones might be a better idea than earbuds. Earbuds, placed directly in the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels in comparison to traditional headphones.

In general, though, do what you can to reduce your exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. You can’t control everything, so try and make the time you’re listening to music headphone-free. If you do suspect you are dealing with hearing loss, you need to see us as soon as possible.

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