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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 a problem only effecting older people – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that about 50% of individuals who suffer from hearing loss are 75 or older. 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 absolutely avoidable.

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. The cause? It’s believed that it might be from headphones and earbuds connected to mobile devices. And younger people are not the only ones in danger of this.

What is The Cause of Hearing Loss in People Below The Age of 60?

For teenagers and everybody else, there is a basic rule for earbud volume – the volume is too high if other people 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. A normal mobile device with the volume turned up all the way registers at around 106 decibels. Your hearing is injured in less than 4 minutes in these situations.

Though this sounds like common sense stuff, the reality is kids spend upwards of two hours every day using their devices, and typically they have their earbuds plugged in. 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 increase over the next few years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in the brain’s of younger kids, which is exactly what addictive drugs do. It will be increasingly difficult 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?

Clearly, loss of hearing presents many struggles to anybody, no matter what the age. But there are added issues for young people regarding after school sports, job prospects, or even academics. Hearing loss at a young age results in issues with attention span and understanding information during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. It also makes participating in sports much more difficult, since so much of sports includes listening to teammates and coaches give instructions and call plays. Early hearing loss can have an adverse effect on confidence as well, which puts needless obstacles in the way of teens and young adults who are joining the workforce.

Hearing loss can also result in persistent social problems. Kids with compromised hearing have a more difficult time connecting with peers, which frequently leads to social and emotional problems that require therapy. People who suffer from loss of hearing can feel isolated and have anxiety and depression inevitably causing mental health concerns. Mental health therapies and hearing loss management often go hand in hand, particularly in kids and teenagers during formative years.

How You Can Prevent Loss of Hearing?

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – offending devices should be at less than 60% of their max volume for no more than 1 hour every day. If you’re able to hear your kids music, even if if the volume is at 60%, you should ask them to turn the volume down.

Also older style over-the-ear headphones may be a better idea than earbuds. Earbuds, placed directly in the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels in comparison to traditional headphones.

Generally, though, do whatever you can to minimize 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 keep have control of. If you do suspect you’re suffering from loss of hearing, you need to see us as soon as possible.