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

Hearing loss is traditionally considered an older person’s concern – in fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of individuals who suffer from hearing loss are 75 or older. 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 avoidable.

A study of 479 freshmen from three high schools carried out by The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing found that 34% of those students exhibited signs of hearing loss. The reason? It’s suspected that it could be the result of headphones and earbuds connected to mobile devices. And younger people aren’t the only ones in danger of this.

In People Who Are Under 60, What Causes Loss of Hearing?

For teenagers and everyone else, there is a simple rule for earbud volume – it’s too loud if other people can hear your music. Harm to your hearing can develop when you listen to sounds higher than 85 decibels – which is about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – over a long time period. If the volume is turned all the way up on a normal mobile device it’s volume is around 106 decibels. Your hearing is damaged in less than 4 minutes in these situations.

While you would think that this stuff would be common sense, the truth is kids spend in excess of two hours every day using their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds connected. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And if current research is correct, this time will only get longer over the next few years. Studies show that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine generation in the brain’s of younger kids, which is the same effect caused by addictive drugs. It will be more and more difficult to get kids to put down their screens, and their hearing may suffer as a result.

How Much Are Young People at Risk of Hearing Loss?

Clearly, hearing loss presents multiple difficulties to anyone, no matter what the age. Young people, however, face added issues regarding academics, after school sports, and even job prospects. The student is disadvantaged if they have a difficult time hearing and understanding concepts in class due to early loss of hearing. And since sports involve a lot of listening to teammates and coaches calling plays, sports become much more difficult. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on confidence as well, which puts unnecessary roadblocks in the way of teenagers and younger adults who are coming into the workforce.

Social troubles can also continue because of loss of hearing. Kids with damaged hearing have a more difficult time interacting with friends, which frequently leads to emotional and social issues that require therapy. People who have hearing loss can feel isolated and have anxiety and depression inevitably leading to mental health issues. Dealing with hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health therapy, particularly in kids and teenagers during developmental years.

Avoiding Hearing Loss

The first rule to adhere to 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 your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while sitting close to them, you should have them turn it down until you can’t hear it anymore.

Also older style over-the-ear headphones might be a better idea than earbuds. Traditional headphones can generate almost 10% less decibels compared to in-ear models.

Throughout the day in general, you need to do anything possible 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 keep have control of. And, see us as soon as possible if you think you are already suffering from hearing loss.