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Hearing Aids by Tricia Leagjeld - Redmond, OR

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

Typically, loss of hearing is thought of as an issue only effecting older people – in fact, it’s estimated that about 50% of individuals aged 75 and up struggle with some kind of hearing loss. And despite the fact that it’s frequently totally preventable, new research shows an alarming number of young people are losing their hearing.

The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently carried out a study of 479 freshmen across three high schools and found that there were indications of hearing loss in 34% of them. Why is this occurring? It’s suspected that it might be the result of headphones and earbuds connected to mobile devices. And the young are not the only ones at risk.

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

There’s a simple rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and all other people – it’s too loud if others can hear your music. Your hearing can be injured when you listen to noises higher than 85 decibels – about the volume of a vacuum cleaner – over a long period of time. A normal mobile device with the volume cranked up all the way registers at approximately 106 decibels. Your hearing is injured in under 4 minutes in these conditions.

Although this sounds like common sense stuff, the reality is kids spend as much as two hours every day on their devices, commonly with their earphones or earbuds plugged in. During this time they’re listening to music, watching videos, or playing games. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only increase over the next few years. Studies show that dopamine is activated by smartphones and other devices with screens, 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 challenging to get them to put away their screens.

How Much Are Young People at Risk of Hearing Loss?

Regardless of age, it’s clear that loss of hearing presents a number of difficulties. Younger people, though, have to deal with additional problems concerning academics, after school sports, and even job prospects. Loss of hearing at a young age leads to problems with attention span and understanding concepts during class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. And because sports involve a lot of listening to teammates and coaches calling plays, sports become much harder. Early loss of hearing can have an adverse effect on confidence too, which puts needless roadblocks in the way of teenagers and young adults who are coming into the workforce.

Hearing loss can also lead to persistent social struggles. Children with compromised hearing frequently wind up requiring therapy because they have a more difficult time with their peers due to loss of hearing. Mental health concerns are common in people of all ages who suffer from hearing loss because they typically feel isolated and have anxiety and depression. Managing hearing loss in many cases must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially in kids and teenagers during formative years.

Preventing Hearing Loss

The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – devices and earbuds should only be used for 60 minutes per day at a maximum volume of 69%. If you’re able to hear your kids music, even if they are at 60%, you need to ask them to turn the volume down.

You might also choose to say goodbye to the earbuds and go with the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds, placed directly in the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels in comparison to traditional headphones.

Generally, though, do everything you can to reduce your exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. You can’t control everything, so try and make the time you’re listening to music free of headphones. If you do think you are suffering from hearing loss, you should see us right away.