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Enhanced Hearing Center - Springfield, MO

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

Hearing loss is normally thought of as an older person’s problem – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of people aged 75 and up suffer from some kind of hearing loss. But new research shows that younger people are at risk for hearing loss – and, alarmingly, they are losing their hearing even though it’s completely avoidable.

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? Mobile devices with earbuds or headphones connected are believed to be the most likely culprit. And older people are also susceptible.

In Individuals Who Are Under The Age of 60, What Causes Loss of Hearing?

For teenagers and everyone else, there is a basic rule for earbud volume – if other people can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Injury to your hearing can develop when you listen to noises above 85 decibels – which is approximately the sound of a vacuum cleaner – for a prolonged time period. A normal mobile device with the volume turned up to the max registers at approximately 106 decibels. In this circumstance, damage starts to develop in less than 4 minutes.

Though this seems like common sense stuff, the truth is kids spend in excess of two hours every day using their devices, and normally they have their earbuds plugged in. During this time they’re listening to music, watching videos, or playing games. And this time is increasing every year according to current research. Studies reveal that smartphones and other screens stimulate dopamine production in younger kids’ brains, which is exactly what addictive drugs do. It will be increasingly challenging to get screens away from kids, and their hearing may suffer because of it.

The Risks of Hearing Loss in Young People

Regardless of age, it’s obvious that loss of hearing offers several challenges. Younger people, however, have to deal with added problems pertaining to after school sports, job prospects, and even academics. Loss of hearing at a young age causes problems with paying attention and understanding information during class, which disadvantages the student. It also makes participating in sports much more challenging, since so much of sports requires listening to teammates and coaches give instructions and call plays. Early loss of hearing can have a detrimental effect on confidence too, which puts unneeded roadblocks in the way of teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce.

Hearing loss can also lead to persistent social problems. Kids with compromised hearing often end up requiring therapy because they have a more difficult time with their friends due to loss of hearing. Mental health problems are common in people of all ages who have hearing loss because they often feel isolated and experience anxiety and depression. Mental health therapies and hearing loss treatment often go hand in hand, especially during the important developmental stages experienced by teenagers and kids.

Avoiding Hearing Loss

The first rule to adhere to is the 60/60 rule – offending devices should be at no more than 60% of their maximum volume for no more than 1 hour each day. If your children listen to headphones at 60% and you can still hear the music while you are close to them, you should tell them to turn it down until you can’t hear it anymore.

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 generate 6 to 9 extra decibels compared to traditional headphones.

Throughout the day in general, you need to do anything possible to minimize your exposure to loud noise. You can’t control everything, so try and make the time you’re listening to tunes free of headphones. If you do think you’re suffering from hearing loss, you need to see us as soon as possible.

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