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

Typically, hearing loss is considered to be a problem only effecting older people – in fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of individuals aged 75 and older struggle with some type of hearing loss. But a new study reveals 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.

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. Why is this happening? Mobile devices with earbuds or headphones connected are believed to be the most likely culprit. And older individuals are also at risk.

What is The Cause of Hearing Loss in People Below The Age of 60?

There’s a simple rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if someone else can hear your music, then the volume is too high. Damage to your hearing can happen when you listen to noises above 85 decibels – which is approximately the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended 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 under 4 minutes in these situations.

While you would think that this stuff would be common sense, the truth is kids spend as much as 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 illustrate that smartphones and other screens activate dopamine generation in younger kids’ brains, which is exactly what addictive drugs do. It will be more and more difficult to get kids to put down their screens, and their hearing could suffer because of it.

The Dangers of Hearing Loss in Young People

Irrespective of age, it’s clear that loss of hearing presents several difficulties. Younger people, though, have to deal with added issues regarding academics, after school sports, and even job prospects. The student is put at a disadvantage if they have a difficult time hearing and understanding concepts in class because of early loss of hearing. And since sports require a lot of listening to teammates and coaches calling plays, sports become far more challenging. Teenagers and younger adults who are joining the workforce will have unnecessary obstacles if their loss of hearing has a negative effect on their self-esteem.

Social troubles can also continue because of loss of hearing. Kids whose hearing is impaired commonly wind up requiring therapy because they have a more difficult time with their peers because of loss of hearing. People who have hearing loss can feel isolated and have depression and anxiety inevitably leading to mental health problems. Managing hearing loss often must go hand-in-hand with mental health treatment, especially in kids and teenagers during formative years.

Avoiding Hearing Loss

The first rule to adhere to is the 60/60 rule – offending devices should be at less than 60% of their max volume for less than 1 hour each day. If you can hear your kids music, even if they are at 60%, you should ask them to turn the volume down.

You may also want to ditch the earbuds and choose the older style over-the-ear headphones. Earbuds, placed directly in the ear can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.

Generally, though, do everything you can to limit your exposure to loud sounds throughout the day. If you try to listen to your music without headphones, that is one of the few things you can control. And, you should see us as soon as possible if you think you’re already suffering from hearing loss.

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