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

Typically, hearing loss is considered to be a problem only impacting older people – in fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of people who suffer from hearing loss are 75 or older. And despite the fact that it’s frequently completely preventable, new research shows an alarming number of young people are losing their hearing.

A study of 479 freshmen from three high schools conducted by The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing revealed that there were indications of hearing loss in 34% of them. The reason? It’s believed that it might be from earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices. And younger people aren’t the only ones in danger of this.

What Causes Hearing Loss in People Below The Age of 60?

There’s an easy rule concerning earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – the volume is too high if other people can hear your music. Harm to your hearing can occur when you listen to noises higher than 85 decibels – about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – over a long time period. A normal mobile device with the volume turned up to the max registers at around 106 decibels. In this situation, damage begins to develop in under 4 minutes.

Although this sounds like common sense stuff, the reality is kids spend around two hours a day using their devices, and ordinarily they have their earbuds plugged in. During this time they’re listening to music, watching videos, or playing games. And if current research is correct, this time will only get longer over the next few years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens activate dopamine generation in younger kids’ brains, which is exactly what addictive drugs do. It will be more and more difficult to get screens away from kids, and their hearing could suffer as a result.

The Dangers of Hearing Loss in Young People

Regardless of age, it’s clear that hearing loss offers many struggles. But there are added problems for young people regarding academics, after school sports, and even job prospects. The student is disadvantaged if they have a hard time hearing and understanding concepts during class due to early loss of hearing. And since sports involve a lot of listening to teammates and coaches calling plays, sports become much harder. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on confidence as well, which puts unneeded obstacles in the way of teens and younger adults who are coming into the workforce.

Social troubles can also persist because of loss of hearing. Kids with damaged hearing have a more difficult time connecting with friends, which typically results in social and emotional problems that require therapy. Mental health troubles are common in people of all ages who have hearing loss because they typically feel isolated and experience anxiety and depression. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly in teenagers and kids during developmental years.

Preventing Hearing Loss

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

You might also choose to say goodbye to the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Traditional headphones can produce almost 10% less volume in comparison to in-ear models.

Throughout the day in general, you should do anything possible to minimize your exposure to loud sound. If you try to listen to your music without headphones, that is one of the few things you can control. And, see us right away if you suspect you’re already suffering from loss of hearing.

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