Hearing Aids Are Changing. Their Users Are, Too.

“When I started the process, the main thing I experienced was it’s difficult to know where to start and how to start, just figuring out which way was up,” said Mr. Cadwell, 32, who lives in Los Angeles.

Even just getting a diagnosis for hearing loss can be hard. People who are concerned about their hearing might start at an ear, nose and throat specialist, and many are referred to audiologists or hearing clinics, where they face a mix of hearing tests, physical exams or imaging.

Juliann Zhou, a 22-year-old international student at New York University, was motivated to get her ears checked after being disturbed by an intense ringing, which was diagnosed as tinnitus from moderate hearing loss. Still, she has not been sold on hearing aids. An audiologist in the United States recommended them, but her parents and their family doctor in China told her they were “only for old people.”

“I just don’t know if it’s necessary,” she said.

Ms. Zhou says she “probably listened to music too loud,” causing her hearing issues. That’s an increasingly common concern, according to the Hearing Loss Association, which has called noise-induced hearing loss a growing public health crisis.

Though long-term tracking data is not available, the association estimates that 12.5 percent of Americans between the ages of 6 and 19 have hearing loss as a result of listening to loud music, particularly through earbuds at unsafe volumes.

For those who need them, the new wave of over-the-counter aids can be more affordable than many prescription models. That makes them a good first choice for more young people, said Zina Jawadi, 26, who has used hearing aids since she was 4 and attends medical school at the University of California, Los Angeles.



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