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

Generally, hearing loss is considered to be an issue only impacting older people – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of people who suffer from loss of hearing are 75 or older. But a new study reveals that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing in spite of the fact that it’s totally avoidable.

The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently conducted a study of 479 freshmen spanning three high schools and revealed that there were signs of hearing loss in 34% of them. Why is this happening? It’s thought that it could be the result of headphones and earbuds connected to mobile devices. And younger people aren’t the only ones at risk.

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

There’s a very simple rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if others can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Your hearing can be damaged when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – similar to the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for a prolonged period of time. A normal mobile device with the volume cranked up to the max clocks in at about 106 decibels. In this circumstance, damage begins to occur in less than 4 minutes.

Although this sounds like common sense stuff, in reality kids spend as much as two hours a day using their devices, commonly with their earphones or earbuds connected. During this time they’re listening to music, watching videos, or playing games. And this time is increasing every year according to current research. Studies reveal that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine production in the brain’s of younger kids, which is the same reaction triggered by addictive drugs. It will be increasingly challenging to get screens away from kids, and their hearing may suffer because of it.

The Dangers of Hearing Loss in Young People

Regardless of age, it’s clear that hearing loss presents many challenges. But there are added problems for young people concerning after school sports, job prospects, and even academics. The student is disadvantaged if they have a hard time hearing and comprehending concepts during class because of early hearing loss. And because sports involve a lot of listening to coaches and teammates calling plays, sports become much more difficult. Teenagers and young adults who are entering the workforce will have unneeded obstacles if their hearing loss has a detrimental impact on their confidence.

Social issues can also persist because of hearing loss. Children with compromised hearing often end up requiring therapy because they have a more difficult time with their friends because of loss of hearing. People who suffer from loss of hearing can feel separated and have anxiety and depression inevitably resulting in mental health concerns. Mental health treatment and hearing loss management often go hand in hand, particularly in kids and teenagers during developmental years.

How You Can Steer Clear of Loss of Hearing?

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 they are at 60%, you should tell them to turn down the volume.

Also older style over-the-ear headphones may be a better choice than earbuds. Earbuds, which are put directly in the ear, can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels in comparison to conventional headphones.

Throughout the day in general, you need to do anything you can to reduce your exposure to loud noise. 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 think you’re already suffering from hearing loss.