New statistics relating to the number of people who regularly use earphones have been described as “alarming” by a Waterford based specialist in the field.

The figures indicate that 41 p.c. of Irish adults over 15 wear earphones regularly while the percentage rises to 82 for those between 15 and 24.

“That’s extremely alarming, considering that the majority of people will have the sound level too high”, stated Bill Somers, an Audiologist with Waterford’s Hidden Hearing Clinic at Arundel Square. He said it might be ten years before young adults discovered that irreparable damage had been caused.

Mr. Somers also sounded a warning note about public transport. “Most people listen to their MP3s on public transport, or in other noisy places, so they’ll turn them up even louder to drown out the surrounding noise”. Don’t be tempted, he warned. “Noise-induced hearing loss is cumulative, happening gradually over a period of time so a young person listening to loud music will not be aware they are doing damage”.

He adds: “It’s key that volume is kept relatively low, ensuring that outside sounds can still be heard. We recently had one girl in to be tested and although she was only 25 she had the hearing of an 85 year old – she had no idea of the damage she had done”.

There is a practical do-it-yourself test which can indicate whether a further test is required. Ask yourself if you strain to hear when in company, if you ever request others to speak up or repeat themselves, or if you find that TV or radio needs to be louder than before.

Hearing Awareness Week starts next Monday and Hidden Hearing is making a special public information leaflet available. It is called Have You Heard and is available by calling freephone 1800882884, emailing or at your local GPs.