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

Typically, hearing loss is considered to be a problem only effecting older people – in fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of people aged 75 and older struggle with some form of hearing loss. But a new study shows that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing even though it’s completely preventable.

A study of 479 freshmen from three high schools carried out by The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing discovered that there were signs of hearing loss in 34% of them. Why is this happening? It’s suspected that it may be from earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices. And the young are not the only ones at risk.

What Causes Hearing Loss in People Under 60?

There’s an easy rule concerning earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – the volume is too high if others can hear your music. Your hearing can be injured when you listen to noises above 85 decibels – about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – over a long time period. If the volume is cranked all the way up on a standard mobile device it’s volume is approximately 106 decibels. Your hearing is damaged in less than 4 minutes in these situations.

While you might think that this stuff would be common sense, the reality is kids spend as much as two hours a day using their devices, and ordinarily they have their earbuds connected. They’re listening to music, playing games, or watching videos during this time. And if current research is correct, this time will only increase over the next few years. Studies show that dopamine is triggered by smartphones and other devices that have screens, in younger kids’ brains, which is exactly what addictive drugs do. Kids hearing loss will continue to increase because it will be more and more hard to get them to put away their screens.

The Risks of Hearing Loss in Young People

Irrespective of age, it’s clear that loss of hearing offers several struggles. But there are additional issues for young people regarding after school sports, job prospects, or even academics. The student is disadvantaged if they have a difficult time hearing and understanding concepts during class due to early hearing loss. And since sports require a lot of listening to teammates and coaches calling plays, sports become a lot harder. Early loss of hearing can have a detrimental effect on confidence also, which puts unneeded roadblocks in the way of teenagers and young adults who are coming into the workforce.

Social struggles can also continue because of hearing loss. Children whose hearing is impaired have a harder time socializing with friends, which frequently leads to emotional and social problems that require therapy. People who have hearing loss can feel separated and have anxiety and depression inevitably leading to mental health problems. Mental health therapies and hearing loss management often go hand in hand, particularly in kids and teenagers during formative years.

Avoiding Hearing Loss

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – offending devices should be at less than 60% of their maximum volume for less than 1 hour a day. If your children listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the music while sitting close to them, you should have them turn it down until you can no longer hear it.

You may also choose to get rid of the earbuds and choose the older style over-the-ear headphones. Conventional headphones can produce almost 10% less volume compared to in-ear models.

Throughout the day in general, you need to do everything you can to minimize your exposure to loud sound. If you try to listen to your tunes without headphones, that is one of the few things you can control. And, you should see us right away if you think you are already suffering from loss of hearing.