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

Normally, hearing loss is thought of as an issue only impacting older people – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of people aged 75 and up suffer from some kind of hearing loss. But a new study 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 absolutely avoidable.

The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently carried out a study of 479 freshmen spanning three high schools and revealed that 34% of those freshmen showed signs of hearing loss. Why is this occurring? It’s suspected that it could be the result of headphones and earbuds connected to mobile devices. And older people are also susceptible.

What Causes Hearing Loss in People Under 60?

There’s a simple rule concerning earbud volume for teenagers and all other people – if others can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Injury to your hearing can develop when you listen to sounds higher than 85 decibels – about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – over a long period of time. If the volume is cranked all the way up on a standard mobile device it’s volume is around 106 decibels. In this situation, damage starts to occur in under 4 minutes.

While this sounds like common sense stuff, in reality kids spend as much as two hours each day on their devices, and typically they have their earbuds plugged in. During this time they’re listening to music, watching videos, or playing games. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next few years. Studies demonstrate that dopamine is stimulated by smartphones and other devices that have screens, in younger kids’ brains, which is the same effect caused by addictive drugs. It will be increasingly difficult to get kids to put down their screens, and their hearing may suffer because of it.

How Much Are Young Kids at Risk of Hearing Loss?

Clearly, hearing loss presents many struggles to anyone, regardless of age. Younger people, though, face additional issues pertaining to academics, after school sports, and even job prospects. The student is put at a disadvantage if they have a hard time hearing and understanding concepts during class because of early loss of hearing. And because sports require a lot of listening to teammates and coaches calling plays, sports become a lot harder. Teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce will have unneeded obstacles if their hearing loss has a negative impact on their confidence.

Social struggles can also persist because of hearing loss. Children with impaired hearing frequently wind up requiring therapy because they have a harder time with their friends because of loss of hearing. Mental health problems are typical in people of all ages who suffer from hearing loss because they commonly feel separated and have anxiety and depression. Mental health therapies and hearing loss treatment often go hand in hand, particularly during the important formative phases experienced by teenagers and kids.

How You Can Avoid Loss of Hearing?

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes per day at a maximum volume of 69%. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the music while you are near them, you should have them turn it down until you can no longer hear it.

You might also choose to get rid of the earbuds and choose the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds, placed directly in the ear can actually generate 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to conventional headphones.

Generally, though, do what you can to limit your exposure to loud noises throughout the day. If you try to listen to your music without headphones, that is one of the few things you can control. If you do think you are dealing with hearing loss, you should see us as soon as possible.