Hearing loss is generally thought to be a condition that only affects older adults. While it is true that hearing loss is more prevalent among older adults, it is more common among children and teens than many might think.
The truth is, hearing impairments can affect anyone at any age. For young adults, hearing loss can have congenital factors or be a result of disease or environmental factors.
Regardless of the cause, hearing aids offer a chance to raise the quality of life for young adults. Thankfully, plenty of high-quality hearing aid options can help them get back in the conversation.
In this article, we explore the prevalence of hearing loss among young adults and help provide insight into some of the best hearing aid options available today.
Hearing Loss in Young Adults
Hearing loss is not reserved for older people. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, around two to three out of every 1,000 children are born with some level of hearing loss.
Furthermore, one in five young people experiences hearing loss, often sensorineural.
What Is Sensorineural Hearing Loss?
Noise-induced hearing loss is a form of sensorineural hearing loss.
Essentially, this comes from damage to the inner ear, specifically damage to inner and outer hair cells.
This type of hearing loss typically happens over many years, but sudden sensorineural hearing loss is also possible.
This symptom of acoustic trauma is considered a medical emergency that can cause permanent deafness.
Sensorineural hearing loss can be temporary or permanent, varying in degrees from mild to severe hearing loss. This type of hearing loss benefits most from amplifying hearing devices like hearing aids and cochlear implants.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Among Teens
Survey data from the CDC suggest that 12.8 to 17.5 percent of teens between the ages of 12 and 19 have measurable hearing loss due to chronic loud noise exposure.
This hearing loss can be present in one (unilateral) or both (bilateral) ears.
This noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) can result from listening to music at unsafe volumes — especially while using earbuds.
Furthermore, it can also result from being in loud environments, such as concerts, clubs, work, and even school.
Safe thresholds of hearing are measured in decibels (dB). According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, safe levels of hearing shouldn’t exceed 70 dB.
Most amplified concerts exceed well over 100 dB, a very dangerous threshold.
How Do I Choose Hearing Aids for Young Adults?
Hearing aids, regardless of size, style, or features, share the same basic principles.
Hearing aids use amplification to improve hearing health by helping to improve a person’s hearing and speech comprehension.
Hearing aids have three basic parts:
- Microphone: This is where sounds are received and turned into electrical signals.
- Amplifier: Here, electrical signals are received and amplified.
- Speaker: Where amplified sounds are delivered, also called a receiver.
What Are the Styles of Hearing Aids?
There are plenty of hearing aid styles to choose from for young adults. When choosing hearing aids, there are two things to remember: aesthetic and functionality — how they will look and perform.
Audiology professionals, like audiologists, can help offer advice if you’re unsure. Each ear hearing aid style has unique features, functionality, and warranty options.
Furthermore, hearing aid costs also vary.
Digital, high-tech options tend to be the most expensive. However, as of August 2022, affordable, over-the-counter hearing aids (OTC) will also be making their way to the consumer market.
You want to choose the right hearing aid style that will match your or your family member’s type of hearing loss, lifestyle, and taste — but comfort is important too. Each style comes with advantages and disadvantages.
The four types of hearing aids include:
- Behind-the-ear (BTE)
- In-the-ear (ITE)
- Canal: completely-in-canal (CIC) and in-the-canal (ITC)
- Receiver-in-canal (RIC)
This style of hearing aid hooks over the top of the ear and rests behind the ear. A custom earmold fits inside the ear canal and is joined by a small tube from the amplifier to the receiver.
This style is popular for younger children and works for all degrees of hearing loss, even profound hearing loss.
Advantages of BTEs
- BTEs tend to have rechargeable batteries and the longest battery life.
- BTEs are easier to clean than smaller hearing aid styles.
Disadvantages of BTEs
- BTEs are less conspicuous and more noticeable.
- BTEs are known for picking up extra background noise and feedback.
ITE hearing aids come in two styles. Half shells fill the lower part of the outer ear, while the full-shell style fills most of the outer ear.
This style of hearing aid is a great option for young adults with mild to severe hearing loss.
Advantages of ITEs
- ITEs boast longer battery lives than smaller styles.
- ITEs can house directional microphones and telecoils to improve performance.
Disadvantages of ITEs
- ITEs are more noticeable than smaller canal-style aids.
- ITEs are more prone to clogging from earwax buildup.
As the name suggests, canal-style hearing aids fit directly into the ear canal.
They come in two styles, in-the-canal (ITC) and completely-in-canal (CIC). Each is custom fit for each wearer’s ear canal.
Advantages of CICs
- CICs are virtually invisible, making them the most discreet hearing aid style.
- CICs are much easier to use with a phone.
Disadvantages of CICs
- CICs are more susceptible to earwax and moisture buildup due to their small size.
- CIC settings can be difficult to adjust, plus their size makes them hard to remove.
Receiver-in-Canal (RIC) and Receiver-in-the-Ear (RITE)
RIC and RITE style hearing aids have receivers that rest right inside the ear canal.
They use a small wire to connect the amplifier to the speaker or receiver instead of tube-like BTEs.
Advantages of receiver-style aids
- RICs and RITEs are much less noticeable than BTE styles.
- RICs and RITEs tend to have fewer feedback issues than BTE style aids.
Disadvantages of receiver-style aids
- RICs and RITEs are more prone to earwax and moisture buildup than BTE styles.
- RICs and RITEs are not suited for young adults with profound hearing loss.
A Great Hearing Aid Option for Young Adults
The Oticon Opn Play is a solid hearing aid option for young adults. It is available as a BTE and RICE style hearing aid.
It boosts OpenSound Navigator technology, providing 360º directional sound quality for hearing aid users.
Aside from being water-resistant, it comes in 12 color styles to match skin tone or hair color.
The hearing aid batteries are rechargeable lithium-ions, so you know they’ll last.
Also, all Oticon hearing aids offer advanced connectivity features, are Bluetooth-enabled, and are compatible with most smartphones.
Choosing the right hearing aid for a young adult can present a challenge.
There are many things to consider, including performance, aesthetics, comfort, and cost.
Before you take the final plunge in buying new hearing aids, consult a hearing health care professional.
These hearing specialists can perform a hearing test to determine the degree of hearing loss, offer advice on hearing well-being, and help you choose the best performing hearing aids that fit your needs.
Check out the USA Rx Hearing Loss Hub for more information on hearing loss, treatment options, and more.