Recent studies — and ample anecdotal evidence — are making it clear that hearing loss is becoming more common in younger adults. Less and less is it a Grandpa Simpson issue.

It’s now believed that up to a quarter of people between 18 and 44 have reported some kind of hearing loss issue. A number of factors seem to be at play:

  • There are more and more public spaces wired for extreme sound. For example, sporting events used feature marching bands and organists, while today blaring music and pyrotechnics are the norm at the professional level. Likewise, bars and restaurants feature powerful sound systems and large-screen TVs — some chains are more about wall-to-wall TVs (and the volume inherent with them) than they are about the food.
  • Meanwhile, fewer and fewer public spaces aren’t wired for sound. There are fewer quiet places where ears can get a break (and yes, ears that don’t get downtime are at more risk for hearing loss).
  • Then there is the rise personal-listening devices (ironically enough popular in part to drown out all the other noise). Headphones and earbuds, especially when the volume is cranked up, are probably a factor. The general increased consumption of media via screens and their accompanying sound systems, and decline of non-screen time, is probably also a driver of hearing loss in younger adults.

Whatever the causes, people will have to adapt. And that probably means making hearing tests a more normalized aspect of healthcare in middle age. Expecting hearing aids to come online about the same time as Social Security checks might be a thing of the past.