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Young woman not protecting her hearing in a loud subway.

An estimated 50% of people over the age of 75 have some form of hearing loss and that’s why most people think of it as an issue for older people. But in spite of the fact that in younger individuals it’s entirely preventable, studies show that they too are at risk of developing hearing loss.

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

What causes hearing loss in people under 60?

If other people can hear your music, it’s too loud and that’s a general rule for teenagers and everyone. If you listen to sounds louder than 85dB (around 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. In this scenario, damage starts to happen in under 4 minutes.

It may seem like everybody would know this but teenagers often have their headphones in for hours at a time. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And if the latest research is to be accepted, this time will only get longer over the next several years. The release of dopamine acts in a similar way to addictive drugs and studies have demonstrated that smartphones and other screens can stimulate the release of dopamine. Kids’ hearing will suffer as it becomes more difficult to get them to put down their devices.

The risks of hearing loss in young people

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

Social issues can also persist due to hearing loss. Kids frequently develop emotional and social problems which can require therapy if they have hearing loss. Individuals who cope with hearing loss frequently feel isolated and experience mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially during the crucial developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.

Preventing hearing loss when you’re young

The first rule to observe 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. Even at 60%, if others can still hear the sound, it needs to be turned down.

You may also want to ditch the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Compared to traditional headphones, earbuds put inside of the ear canal can actually create 5 to 10 extra decibels.

Whatever you can do to reduce your child’s exposure to loud sounds throughout the day will be helpful. You can’t regulate everything they do while at school or on the bus, so try to make the time they’re at home free of headphones. And if you do believe your child is suffering from hearing loss, you should have them examined as soon as possible.

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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.