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

Traditionally, hearing loss is thought of as an issue only effecting older people – in fact, it’s estimated that about 50% of individuals aged 75 and older suffer from some type of hearing loss. But a new study reveals that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing even though it’s totally avoidable.

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 cause? It’s assumed that it may be the result of earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices. And older individuals are also susceptible.

In Individuals Who Are Under 60, What Causes Hearing Loss?

There’s an easy rule concerning earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – it’s too loud if others can hear your music. Harm 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. If the volume is cranked all the way up on a normal mobile device it’s volume is around 106 decibels. Your hearing is damaged in less than 4 minutes in these conditions.

Although this sounds like common sense stuff, the reality is kids spend as much as two hours a day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds connected. During this time they’re watching videos, listening to music, 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 with screens, in the brain’s of younger kids, which is exactly what addictive drugs do. It will be more and more challenging to get kids to put down their screens, and their hearing could suffer because of it.

How Much Are Young People in Danger of Hearing Loss?

Obviously, hearing loss offers several challenges to anyone, irrespective of the age. Young people, however, face additional problems 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 hearing loss. It also makes participating in sports a lot more difficult, since so much of sports entails listening to teammates and coaches give instructions and call plays. Early loss of hearing can have an adverse effect on confidence also, which puts unnecessary obstacles in the way of teens and younger adults who are coming into the workforce.

Hearing loss can also cause persistent social troubles. Children with impaired hearing often wind up requiring therapy because they have a more difficult time with their peers due to loss of hearing. People who have loss of hearing can feel isolated and have anxiety and depression inevitably leading to mental health issues. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, particularly during the significant developmental stages experienced by kids and teenagers.

Preventing Hearing Loss

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 sound while sitting near them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can’t hear it anymore.

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

Throughout the day in general, you should do everything you can to limit your exposure to loud sound. You can’t control everything, so try and make the time you’re listening to music free of headphones. And, you should see us right away if you suspect you’re already suffering from loss of hearing.

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.
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