Hearing Loss in Teens and Young Adults
Hearing loss is not confined to a certain time in your life, and people of all ages can have mild to profound hearing impairment. Being a teenager or a young adult with hearing loss presents particular challenges, and is sometimes not understood as well as hearing impairment in an older person. Read on to learn more about hearing loss in teens and young adults.
Types of Hearing Loss
Just as in an older population, teens can experience hearing loss due to illness, genetics, medication, or injury to the ear. One in 10 people in the United States have hearing loss, and it is likely that you will meet a hearing impaired young adult in your lifetime. Hearing loss can be conductive, which results from a problem with the outer or middle ear. This can be from a blockage or other structural problem, and can often be corrected with surgery. Sensorineural hearing loss is from damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve. The tiny hairs inside the ear can become damaged and result in hearing loss that is irreversible. You can also have mixed hearing loss that involves both conductive and sensorineural loss, or an auditory processing disorder. Hearing loss can be mild, or more severe, and may interfere with daily life.
Causes of Hearing Loss
While hearing loss in teens and young adults can be from the same causes as hearing impairment in older adults, there are certain causes that are much more common. Some of these include:
Probably the most common form of hearing loss in teens is otitis media, which is an infection of the middle ear. Ear infections and the resulting fluid can cause difficulty hearing for weeks or even months. Thankfully, the hearing loss from an ear infection is only temporary, but some teens are plagued with chronic ear infections that leave them hearing impaired for much of their young adult years.
The teen years are a time of sports, adventure, and a good amount of risk-taking. With that, injuries to the ear or head (like a skull fracture) can occur that can damage hearing and result in permanent hearing loss.
Mumps, measles, chickenpox, and even tumors can all damage the inner ear. Teens are at the age to be susceptible to many childhood illnesses.
But there is one cause of hearing loss that is especially on the rise with teens and that is exposure to prolonged, loud noises.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
Noise induced hearing loss is on the rise in teens, as headphone use with music, television, and video games is becoming prevalent. In addition to headphones, teens are part of a demographic that are often at loud concerts and venues, movies, or sporting events. The Journal of the American Medical Association found that 1 in 5 adolescents have some sort of hearing impairment. That is a staggering number, especially when you consider that most hearing loss in teens can be prevented. This number is also a 31 percent increase from the 1980s and 1990s. Even mild hearing loss as a teen can set you up for greater loss as an adult, and can interfere with your life. When your teen is exposed to loud noises, the tiny hairs in the ear are affected, and it is the outer hair cells that are damaged first. This leads to your teen not being able to hear soft sounds, like whispers. With our young adults seemingly glued to their phones, and their earbuds glued to their ears, there are many chances for hearing loss. What can be done to prevent noise induced hearing loss?
Turn Down the Music
You don’t need to stop listening to your headphones, but you need to keep it at a good level. Even 15 minutes of loud music through headphones can start to damage your hearing. Using noise-cancelling headphones can help block out background sounds and allow you to listen at lower volumes. If you can hear music coming from your teen’s headphones, they are listening at too high of a volume.
Move Away From Loud Situations
This is easier said than done for most teens, but trying to avoid the loudest areas of a concert, not staying by loud construction, or avoiding sitting right next to a speaker at a conference or lecture can really help. There are even decibel apps that they can use on their smartphones to measure how loud a situation is.
Cover Your Ears
Not with your hands, but using earplugs or earmuffs can help protect your hearing. Again, convincing a teen that this is a good idea can be difficult, but having the option of a small pair of earplugs can help when in a loud situation. Those same noise-cancelling headphones they love to listen to music on can be used in a loud environment, such as on a plane, to keep your hearing safe.
Noise induced hearing loss is on the rise, and your teen has the power to prevent it. Share these tips with them and stress the importance of protecting their hearing from a young age.
Effects of Hearing Loss for Teens and Young Adults
Experiencing hearing loss or impairment as a teen or young adult presents a unique set of challenges that older adults may not have. The teen years are some of the most formative and turbulent, and having any part of you that is different from your peers can be difficult, including hearing loss. You don’t want to be seen as anything other than normal, and having an impairment that places you at a disadvantage could be something that is embarrassing for young adults. Think of the ways that hearing loss can impact a young person’s life:
A large part of a teen’s life is high school, and possibly the transition into college. If you have hearing loss, you may not be able to hear what your teacher is saying, or listening intently for an entire class period could leave you exhausted. You need to advocate for yourself (especially in college) and this can be hard for many teens. If you don’t address hearing impairment during the teen years you could see your child start to receive bad grades, lose interest in school, or become depressed. There are educational solutions for individuals with hearing impairment, but the first step is to let someone know that you are struggling.
Socializing is also a big part of any teen’s schedule, and conversation is integral to making friends and deepening relationships. Teens want to be accepted, and that can be hard if they can’t hear what is being said around them. Hearing impairment can also be confusing for those around your teen, and they may think that your teen is being distant, mean, or sulky when in reality they just can’t hear. Friendships and romantic relationships can be affected by hearing impairment, and this is a time when young adults need to feel confident and in control of the situations around them.
There is a lot of communication that goes on during sports, and if your teen cannot hear their coach, other players, or referees it can impact their performance. Not taking the instructions they cannot hear can make your teen seem to be uninterested in constructive criticism, and can make their coaches view them less favorably. Hearing is important in sports, and if hearing loss is not acknowledged during these years it can result in poor performance or a loss of interest in playing.
The young adult years are when many teens get their first job and start dipping their toes into working. Looking for your first job can be overwhelming, and is made even more difficult when hearing loss is involved. Teens may try to hide their hearing loss, but by not addressing it, employers may think they are uninterested or rude. Straining to hear during the workday can be overwhelming, and leave your teen feeling overwhelmed.
As you can see, teens face unique situations where hearing loss can really impact their life. These years come with a lot of firsts, and you don’t want those new experiences to be negatively impacted by hearing impairment.
Solutions for Teens
As with hearing loss at any age, hearing aids can be incredibly useful for teens. However, teens may be especially resistant to the stigma associated with wearing hearing aids. It is important to help your teen understand how hearing loss is affecting their life, not just academically, but socially as well. If you can get your teen to understand that hearing aids will make things that are important to them more accessible, they will be more receptive to trying them. There has been so much innovation in the hearing aid industry, and today’s hearing aids are smaller, more advanced, and easier to use. Your teen may be interested in a hearing aid that is virtually undetectable in the ear, like the
Siemens Silk Primax. This tiny hearing aid is packed with features that can help your teen in school, in sports, and in everyday relationships. Reassuring your teen that there are discreet solutions that can improve their hearing can help them be open to the idea of hearing aids.
How Factory Direct Hearing Can Help
Teens and young adults have busy lives, and the thought of multiple trips to a hearing doctor can seem overwhelming. Factory Direct Hearing makes this whole process easier by offering the best hearing aids, at the best prices, delivered directly to your door! All you need is a hearing test, and Factory Direct Hearing does the rest—contact us today to help your teen with hearing loss! Teens and young adults can be extremely affected by hearing loss, so find a solution to hearing impairment while they are still young.