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

Generally, loss of hearing is considered to be an issue only effecting older people – in fact, it’s estimated that about 50% of individuals aged 75 and older struggle with some type 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 absolutely 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 students exhibited signs of hearing loss. Why is this occurring? It’s suspected that it might be from earbuds and headphones connected to mobile devices. And younger people aren’t the only ones at risk.

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

For teenagers and everybody else, there is a simple rule for earbud volume – it’s too loud if others can hear your music. Injury to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds higher than 85 decibels – about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. A normal mobile device with the volume turned up to the max clocks in at about 106 decibels. Your hearing is injured in under 4 minutes in these situations.

While you would think that this stuff would be common sense, the truth is kids spend upwards of two hours a day using their devices, commonly with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. They’re listening to music, playing games, or watching videos during this time. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only get longer over the next few years. Studies reveal that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine generation in the brain’s of younger kids, which is literally what addictive drugs do. Kids loss of hearing will continue to increase because it will be more and more difficult to get them to put their screens down.

The Risks of Hearing Loss in Young People

Regardless of age, it’s clear that loss of hearing offers countless struggles. But there are added issues for young people concerning job prospects, after school sports, or even academics. The student is disadvantaged if they have a hard time hearing and comprehending concepts in class due to early loss of hearing. It also makes participating in sports much more difficult, since so much of sports entails listening to coaches and teammates give instructions and call plays. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on confidence also, which puts unneeded hurdles in the way of teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce.

Hearing loss can also result in persistent social struggles. Children with impaired hearing have a more difficult time connecting with peers, which frequently leads to social and emotional issues that require therapy. People who suffer from hearing loss can feel separated and have anxiety and depression inevitably leading to mental health problems. Mental health therapies and hearing loss treatment often go hand in hand, especially in teenagers and kids during developmental years.

How You Can Avoid Loss of Hearing?

The first rule to adhere to is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 1 hour 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 close to them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can’t hear it anymore.

You may also choose to say goodbye to the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Conventional headphones can produce almost 10% less volume compared to in-ear models.

In general, though, do whatever you can to limit your exposure to loud noises throughout the day. You can’t control everything, so try to make the time you’re listening to tunes free of headphones. If you do think you are dealing with hearing loss, you should see us right away.

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