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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 a problem only effecting older people – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of individuals who have loss of hearing are 75 or older. And despite the fact that it’s often completely preventable, a new study shows an alarming number of young people are losing their hearing.

A study of 479 freshmen from three high schools carried out by The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing found that there were signs of hearing loss in 34% of them. The reason? It’s suspected that it may be the result of earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices. And older individuals are also at risk.

What Causes Hearing Loss in People Under 60?

There’s a very simple rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if others can hear your music, then the volume is too high. Injury to your hearing can happen when you listen to noises above 85 decibels – similar to the volume of a vacuum cleaner – over a long time period. A normal mobile device with the volume turned up all the way registers at approximately 106 decibels. Your hearing is damaged in under 4 minutes in these circumstances.

Though this seems like common sense stuff, the reality is kids spend in excess of two hours a day on their devices, and normally they have their earbuds connected. During this time they’re watching videos, listening to music, or playing games. And if current research is correct, this time will only get longer over the next few years. Studies show that dopamine is stimulated by smartphones and other devices with screens, in the brain’s of younger kids, which is the same reaction triggered by addictive drugs. Kids hearing loss will continue to increase because it will be more and more challenging to get them to put their screens down.

How Much Are Young People in Danger of Hearing Loss?

Irrespective of age, it’s clear that hearing loss presents several challenges. But there are additional issues for young people concerning job prospects, after school sports, or even academics. Loss of hearing at a young age leads to issues with attention span and understanding concepts in class, which disadvantages the student. And because sports require a lot of listening to teammates and coaches calling plays, sports become a lot more challenging. Early loss of hearing can have an adverse effect on confidence too, which puts needless hurdles in the way of teenagers and younger adults who are entering the workforce.

Social problems can also continue due to hearing loss. Kids whose hearing is impaired commonly end up needing therapy because they have a harder time with their peers due to loss of hearing. Mental health concerns are common in people of all ages who have hearing loss because they typically feel isolated and have anxiety and depression. Treating hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health therapy, especially during the important formative stages experienced by teenagers and kids.

How You Can Steer Clear of Loss of Hearing?

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

You may also want to get rid of the earbuds and choose the older style over-the-ear headphones. Conventional headphones can generate almost 10% less decibels in comparison to in-ear models.

In general, though, do what you can to minimize 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. And, see us as soon as possible if you suspect you’re already suffering from hearing loss.