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

Hearing loss is traditionally thought of as an older person’s concern – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of individuals who have 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 totally avoidable.

A study of 479 freshmen from three high schools conducted by The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing revealed that there were indications of hearing loss in 34% of them. The reason? Mobile devices with earbuds or headphones connected are suspected to be the most likely culprit. And older people are also susceptible.

What is The Cause of Hearing Loss in People Under 60?

There’s an easy rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everybody else – if other people can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Injury to your hearing can develop when you listen to noises higher than 85 decibels – similar to the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for a prolonged time period. If the volume is turned all the way up on a standard mobile device it’s volume is about 106 decibels. In this situation, damage starts to develop in less than 4 minutes.

While you might think that this stuff would be common sense, the truth is kids spend in excess of two hours each day using their devices, and ordinarily they have their earbuds plugged in. They’re playing games, watching videos, or listening to music during this time. And this time is increasing every year according to current research. Studies reveal that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine generation in the brain’s of younger kids, which is literally what addictive drugs do. Kids hearing loss will continue to increase because it will be increasingly challenging to get them to put away their screens.

How Much Are Young Kids at Risk of Hearing Loss?

Irrespective of age, it’s obvious that hearing loss presents countless difficulties. But there are added issues for young people regarding job prospects, after school sports, or even academics. Loss of hearing at a young age results in issues with paying attention and understanding information in class, which puts the student at a disadvantage. And since sports involve a lot of listening to coaches and teammates calling plays, sports become much harder. Early hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on confidence too, which puts needless hurdles in the way of teens and young adults who are entering the workforce.

Loss of hearing can also lead to persistent social issues. Children with compromised hearing often wind up requiring therapy because they have a harder time with their peers due to loss of hearing. People who suffer from loss of hearing can feel separated and have anxiety and depression inevitably leading to mental health issues. Mental health therapies and hearing loss treatment often go hand in hand, particularly during the significant formative phases experienced by teenagers and kids.

How You Can Prevent Loss of Hearing?

The first rule to follow 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 you’re able to hear your kids headphones, 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, which are put directly in the ear, can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.

Generally speaking, though, do everything you can to minimize your exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. You can’t control everything, so try and make the time you’re listening to tunes headphone-free. If you do believe you are suffering from hearing loss, you should see us right away.