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

Hearing loss is normally thought to be an older person’s concern – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of individuals aged 75 and up suffer from some kind of hearing loss. And though it’s frequently entirely preventable, new research shows an alarming number of younger 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 found that 34% of those youngsters exhibited signs of hearing loss. The cause? Mobile devices with headphones or earbuds connected are believed to be the culprit. 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 a very simple rule concerning earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if other people can hear your music, then the volume is too high. Harm to your hearing can happen when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – over a long time period. A typical mobile device with the volume turned up all the way clocks in at approximately 106 decibels. Your hearing is injured in less than 4 minutes in these conditions.

Though this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is kids spend upwards of two hours a day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. They’re listening to music, playing games, or watching videos during this time. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next few years. Studies illustrate that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is the same effect triggered by addictive drugs. Kids loss of hearing will continue to multiply because it will be more and more challenging to get them to put away their screens.

How Much Are Young People in Danger of Hearing Loss?

Regardless of age, it’s obvious that hearing loss presents a number of challenges. But there are added problems for young people concerning academics, after school sports, and even job prospects. Hearing loss at a young age causes problems with attention span and understanding concepts during class, which disadvantages the student. It also makes playing sports a lot more difficult, since so much of sports entails listening to coaches and teammates give instructions and call plays. Early loss of hearing can have a detrimental effect on confidence also, which puts needless roadblocks in the way of teens and younger adults who are entering the workforce.

Social problems can also continue because of hearing loss. Kids whose hearing is impaired have a more difficult time connecting with peers, which often leads to social and emotional struggles that require therapy. People who suffer from loss of hearing can feel isolated and have depression and anxiety inevitably causing mental health issues. Treating hearing loss in many cases must go hand-in-hand with mental health therapy, particularly during the important developmental phases experienced by kids and teenagers.

How You 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 you can hear your kids music, even if if the volume is at 60%, you need to tell them to turn the volume down.

Also older style over-the-ear headphones might be a better choice than earbuds. Conventional headphones can generate almost 10% less volume compared to in-ear models.

In general, though, do everything you can to reduce your exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. If you try to listen to your tunes without headphones, that is one of the few things you can control. If you do suspect you’re dealing with hearing loss, you need to see us as soon as possible.

Main Line Audiology Consultants, PC