Hearing loss can strike anyone at any age.  If you think of the average hearing aid user, who do you imagine?  A middle-aged or elderly person?  The average hearing aid user could soon be much younger than you think.

Millennials are putting their hearing at unprecedented risk.  Young people have enjoyed listening to music for decades, but the way they've done it has changed completely.  No longer are most people listening to it on a stereo at a party or with traditional earphones.  You only have to look around you on the bus, on the street or at the gym to see how many people use earbuds to listen to music from their smartphone.  Using earbuds rather than traditional earphones can create much louder sounds in a range which can easily damage hearing in a short space of time.  While their parents needed to go to a concert or stand next to a jet to be exposed to 90-decibel sounds that can damage their hearing, millennials can have the same exposure for hours each day just by turning up the beats on their smartphone.  New stereo and loudspeaker technology have increased the levels of sounds in venues like clubs or at sports games too.

The World Health Organisation warned in 2015 that over 1 billion teenagers and young adults worldwide were putting their hearing at risk by unsafe exposure to loud noises, mostly due to their increased use of personal listening devices such as smartphones. Exposure to such sounds over time can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss.  A 2010 study found that levels of hearing loss in teenagers had already increased by a third from 1988 to 2006.  Considering how much more common smartphones and MP3 players have become in the past decade, it's frightening to imagine how much more common hearing loss could become.

There are ways to limit the damage caused by everyday life in this digital world.  Careful selection of headphones that will keep music at a safe level is one of the best ways. Many devices come with safety guards for the level of noise they'll produce; unfortunately, many of these can be overridden.  You can find apps for your smartphone which will provide an extra safeguard to reduce the risk of your music damaging your hearing.  Awareness of the risks is possibly the best tool we have.  The more young people are aware of the risks and the need to consider their hearing in risky situations, the better they'll be able to take steps to keep themselves (and their hearing) safe.

If you've already begun losing your hearing and think you could benefit from hearing aids, talk with your doctor.