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Young woman not protecting her hearing in a loud subway.

Hearing loss is usually considered an older person’s issue – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of people over 75 suffer from some form of hearing loss. But in spite of the fact that in younger people it’s totally preventable, studies show that they too are in danger of developing hearing loss.

One study of 479 freshmen across three high schools discovered that 34% of those students showed indications of hearing loss. What could be causing this? The concept is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And everyone’s at risk.

What causes hearing loss in individuals under 60?

There’s a basic rule relating to earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if someone else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. If you listen to sounds above 85dB (about the volume of a vacuum cleaner) for extended time periods, your hearing can be damaged. The majority of mobile devices can go well above 105dB. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause damage.

While this seems like common sense stuff, the reality is that kids spend well over two hours every day on their devices, frequently with their earphones or earbuds in. During this time, they’re enjoying music, playing games, and watching video. And this will only increase over the next few years, if we’re to believe current research. Research shows that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same reaction caused by addictive drugs. It will be harder and harder to get screens away from kids, and their hearing could suffer because of it.

Young people are in danger of hearing loss

Regardless of age, hearing loss clearly presents a number of challenges. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job possibilities produce additional challenges. Hearing loss at a young age leads to issues with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. Sports become especially challenging if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving instructions. Young adults and teenagers joining the workforce can encounter unnecessary roadblocks caused by hearing loss.

Hearing loss can also lead to social issues. Kids who have damaged hearing have a more difficult time connecting with peers, which frequently causes social and emotional issues that require therapy. Mental health problems are prevalent in people of all ages who have hearing loss because they frequently feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. Treating hearing loss often needs to go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.

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

It also may be smart to change 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 when compared to traditional headphones.

Whatever you can do to minimize your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. You can’t control everything they do during 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 experiencing hearing loss, you should have them assessed right away.

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References

https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/quick-statistics-hearing
https://newsie.co.nz/news/163631-deaf-foundation-blames-earbuds-phones-teens-hearing-loss.html
https://time.com/4989275/young-children-tablets-mobile-devices/
https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52500-Hearing-loss-among-kids-and-teens
https://hearinghealthfoundation.org/blogs/protecting-your-hearing-means-protecting-your-mental-health
https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/earbuds.html

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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