Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is an extremely prevalent problem—it is estimated that approximately twelve percent of the U.S. population suffers from significant hearing loss, and that one in three people worldwide over the age of sixty-five lives with this condition. Studies show that men are much more likely to experience hearing loss than women, a fact that is often attributed to male-dominated, noisy occupations such as construction work. Age-related hearing loss, which occurs gradually over time and most often occurs in both ears, is one of the most common complaints of aging and elderly men and women.

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Symptoms

Hearing loss can result in a variety of frustrating symptoms. Many people begin to find it difficult to understand the speech of others, especially in group settings. It can become challenging for those with hearing loss to discern which direction noise is coming from, which can lead to disorientation. In addition, having to constantly concentrate while listening can lead to stress or exhaustion in those with impaired hearing. Persistent tinnitus is yet another symptom that commonly accompanies hearing loss. All of these challenges may eventually lead to feelings of depression or anxiety, and even increase one’s likelihood of developing dementia, if hearing loss remains untreated.

Causes

Excessive noise exposure is the leading cause of hearing loss, and studies show that about 15 percent of Americans aged 20 to 69 have hearing loss related to occupational or recreational noise exposure. Studies show that men are much more likely to experience hearing loss than women, a fact that is often attributed to male-dominated, noisy occupations such as construction work. When noise is too loud, it can kill hair cells in the inner ear—which can cause permanent hearing damage, as these cells cannot be repaired. Age-related hearing loss (which is caused by changes in the inner ear and which is often related to factors such as heredity and family history) is also very common.

Prevention

Though there are several kinds of hearing loss that are beyond our control, noise related hearing loss, the most common kind, is completely preventable by reducing or eliminating one’s exposure to loud noises. Listening to loud music through earbuds (headphones that fit into the ear) may be one of the leading causes of adolescent hearing loss, and teenagers and their parents should be aware of the risks, taking care to avoid excessively high volume levels. Many people experience temporary hearing loss and tinnitus (a ringing sound in the ears) after loud recreational activities such as fireworks displays or loud concerts. This is no reason to worry, as long as exposure is not repeated or prolonged.

What are the available treatments?

Luckily, most types of permanent hearing loss, though they cannot be corrected with surgery, can be successfully treated with hearing aids. Hearing aid technology has improved significantly over the years, and modern hearing devices have become better at providing the wearer with a more seamless, individualized, and natural listening experience. There are more options than ever before for taking steps to correct your hearing, so why not start now?