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Young woman not protecting her hearing in a loud subway.

Hearing loss is normally considered an older person’s issue – in fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of individuals over 75 copes with some type of hearing loss. But studies show that younger individuals are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing despite the fact that it’s totally preventable.

One study of 479 freshmen from three high schools discovered that 34% of those students showed signs of hearing loss. The cause? The concept is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the problem. And younger people aren’t the only ones at risk.

What causes hearing loss in individuals under 60?

There’s a basic rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if someone else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. Harm to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds louder than 85 decibels – which is about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended time period. A normal mobile device with the volume turned all the way up is around 106 decibels. Used in this way, 4 minutes is enough to cause damage.

It may seem as if everybody would know this but teenagers often have their headphones in for hours at a time. They’re playing games, watching footage, or listening to music during this time. And if current research is to be accepted, this time will only get longer over the next few years. The production of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and research has shown that smartphones and other screens can stimulate dopamine release. It will become more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing could suffer because of it.

The dangers of hearing loss in young people

Regardless of age, hearing loss clearly creates numerous obstacles. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job prospects produce additional challenges. Students with hearing loss face a particularly difficult time hearing and comprehending concepts. Sports become especially challenging if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving directions. Young adults and teenagers joining the workforce can face unnecessary roadblocks caused by hearing loss.

Social issues can also continue due to hearing loss. Kids frequently develop emotional and social issues which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Mental health issues are prevalent in people of all ages who have hearing loss because they often feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. Managing hearing loss often needs to go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.

Avoiding hearing loss when you’re young

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes per day at 60% or less of the highest volume. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the music, it needs to be turned down.

It also might be smart to change back to over-the-ear style headphones and stop using earbuds. Earbuds put directly into the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels when compared to traditional headphones.

Whatever you can do to limit your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. You can’t control everything they do while at school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home free of headphones. And you need to get a hearing examination for your child if you think they might already be suffering from hearing loss.

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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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