Louisville Family Audiology - Louisville, KY

Young woman not protecting her hearing in a loud subway.

Hearing loss is commonly considered an older person’s problem – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of individuals aged 75 and older suffer from some type of hearing loss. But in spite of the fact that in younger individuals it’s completely preventable, studies show that they too are at risk of experiencing hearing loss.

One study of 479 freshmen from three high schools found that 34% of those students showed indications of hearing loss. What could be causing this? The idea is that mobile devices with earbuds connected are contributing to the issue. And younger people aren’t the only ones at risk.

What causes hearing loss in people under 60?

There’s a simple rule relating to earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if somebody else can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Harm to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – which is about the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. A normal mobile device with the volume turned all the way up clocks in at about 106 decibels. In this situation, damage starts to take place in under 4 minutes.

While this sounds like common sense stuff, the reality is that kids spend well over two hours a day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds in. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next few years. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and research has revealed that smartphones and other screens can stimulate dopamine release. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes harder to get them to put down their devices.

Young people are in danger of hearing loss

Obviously, hearing loss presents several difficulties for anybody, regardless of age. For younger people though, after school activities, sports, and job possibilities produce additional difficulties. Hearing loss at a young age leads to problems with paying attention and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. Sports become particularly hard if you can’t hear coaches and teammates calling plays and giving directions. Early hearing loss can have a negative effect on confidence as well, which puts unwanted obstacles in front of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.

Hearing loss can also cause social issues. Kids often develop emotional and social problems which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Mental health issues are common in individuals of all ages who have hearing loss because they often feel isolated and experience depression and anxiety. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management often go together and this is especially true with kids and teenagers in their early developmental years.

How young people can prevent hearing loss

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes a day at 60% or less of the maximum volume. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while sitting near them, you should have them turn it down until you can’t hear it.

It also might be smart to switch back to over-the-ear style headphones and stop using earbuds. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds put inside of the ear canal can actually produce 5 to 10 extra decibels.

Generally, though, do what you can to reduce your child’s exposure to loud sounds during the day. Try to make their home time free of headphone use because you can’t control what they are doing when they’re not home. And if you do suspect your child is suffering from hearing loss, you should have them evaluated right away.

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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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