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

Generally, hearing loss is thought of as an issue only impacting older people – in fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of individuals aged 75 and up struggle with some form of hearing loss. But new research shows that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing in spite of the fact that 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 revealed that 34% of those freshmen showed signs of hearing loss. Why is this happening? Mobile devices with earbuds or headphones connected are suspected to be the most likely culprit. And older individuals are also susceptible.

What Causes Hearing Loss in People Below The Age of 60?

For teenagers and everyone else, there is a simple rule for earbud volume – if others can hear your music, then the volume is too high. Injury to your hearing can develop 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 around 106 decibels. In this situation, injury starts to develop in less than 4 minutes.

While you would think that this stuff would be common sense, in reality kids spend in excess of two hours a day on their devices, and typically they have their earbuds connected. During this time they’re watching videos, listening to music, or playing games. And this time is increasing every year according to current research. Studies demonstrate that dopamine is triggered by smartphones and other devices that have screens, in the brain’s of younger kids, which is exactly what addictive drugs do. It will be increasingly challenging to get screens away from kids, and their hearing could suffer because of it.

How Much Are Young Kids at Risk of Hearing Loss?

Regardless of age, it’s obvious that hearing loss offers a number of struggles. Young people, though, have to deal with additional problems concerning after school sports, job prospects, or even academics. Loss of hearing at a young age causes problems with paying attention and understanding information during class, which disadvantages the student. It also makes participating in sports much more difficult, since so much of sports requires listening to coaches and teammates give instructions and call plays. Early loss of hearing can have an adverse effect on confidence also, which puts unneeded obstacles in the way of teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce.

Social troubles can also persist because of hearing loss. Children whose hearing is impaired often wind up requiring therapy because they have a harder time with their peers due to loss of hearing. People who suffer from loss of hearing can feel separated and have depression and anxiety inevitably leading to mental health concerns. Treating hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health therapy, particularly in teenagers and kids during formative years.

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 maximum volume for less than 1 hour each day. If you’re able to hear your kids headphones, even if they are at 60%, you should tell them to turn the volume down.

You might also want to say goodbye to the earbuds and choose the older style over-the-ear headphones. Traditional headphones can produce almost 10% less volume in comparison to in-ear models.

Throughout the day in general, you should do everything you can to reduce your exposure to loud noise. You can’t control everything, so try to make the time you’re listening to tunes headphone-free. If you do suspect you’re dealing with hearing loss, you should see us as soon as possible.