McDonald Hearing Services - Grand Rapids, MI

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

Hearing loss is typically thought of as an older person’s issue – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that about 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 in spite of the fact that it’s absolutely preventable.

The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently carried out research on 479 freshmen spanning three high schools and revealed that there were signs of hearing loss in 34% of them. The cause? Mobile devices with earbuds or headphones connected are thought to be the primary cause. And older people are also susceptible.

What Causes Hearing Loss in People Under 60?

There’s a very simple rule concerning earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – the volume is too high if others can hear your music. Harm to your hearing can occur when you listen to sounds above 85 decibels – which is approximately the sound of a vacuum cleaner – over a long period of time. If the volume is cranked all the way up on a typical mobile device it’s volume is approximately 106 decibels. Your hearing is injured in less than 4 minutes in these situations.

Though this sounds like common sense stuff, in reality kids spend upwards of two hours a day on their devices, often with their earphones or earbuds connected. During this time they’re listening to music, watching videos, or playing games. And this time is getting longer every year according to current research. Studies show that dopamine is triggered by smartphones and other devices that have screens, in the brain’s of younger kids, which is the same response caused by addictive drugs. It will be increasingly challenging to get kids to put down their screens, and their hearing may suffer because of it.

The Challenges of Hearing Loss in Young People

Obviously, loss of hearing presents numerous difficulties to anybody, no matter what the age. Younger people, though, face added issues regarding after school sports, job prospects, and even academics. Loss of hearing at a young age leads to issues with attention span and understanding concepts in class, which disadvantages the student. It also makes playing sports much more challenging, since so much of sports requires listening to teammates and coaches give instructions and call plays. Teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce will have unnecessary obstacles if their hearing loss has a negative effect on their self-esteem.

Loss of hearing can also cause persistent social struggles. Children whose hearing is impaired often wind up needing therapy because they have a more difficult time with their peers due to loss of hearing. People who suffer from loss of hearing can feel isolated and have anxiety and depression inevitably leading to mental health issues. Mental health therapies and hearing loss treatment often go hand in hand, especially during the significant formative stages experienced by teenagers and kids.

How You Can Prevent Hearing Loss?

The first rule to adhere to is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 1 hour a day at a maximum volume of 69%. If your kids listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the sound while you are close to them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can’t hear it anymore.

You may also choose to ditch the earbuds and choose the older style over-the-ear headphones. 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 everything possible to limit your exposure to loud sound. If you try to listen to your music without headphones, that is one of the few things you can keep have control of. And, see us right away if you suspect you’re already suffering from loss of hearing.