What is hearing loss?
Hearing loss refers to a decreased ability to hear. The loss of hearing can be partial or total. Treatment can improve hearing in some cases, but the hearing loss cannot usually be cured.
What are the two most common causes of hearing loss in adults?
The most common causes of hearing loss in adults are aging and exposure to noise.
Age-related hearing loss happens to a lot of people as they age and it can be mild or severe. Changes in the ear as we get older impact hearing. The outer part of the ear canal thins, and the eardrum may thicken. Earwax becomes drier and stickier which can result in impacted earwax. The part of the ear called the cochlea loses sensory cells, while nerve fibers that carry sound information to the brain degenerate.
Hearing loss that is caused by noise can occur suddenly or gradually over time. Sudden hearing loss from noise can occur from gunfire or explosions, and is a main cause of combat disability. Hearing loss that occurs over time can come from regular exposure to daily loud noises, such as a loud workplace, loud music, or using heavy machinery.
About 48 million American suffer with hearing loss.
The Hearing Loss Association of America estimates about 48 million Americans – that's 20 percent of the population – have some degree of hearing loss.
Hearing loss is the third-most common public health issue after arthritis and heart disease.
What are signs and symptoms of hearing loss?
The main symptom of hearing loss the loss of ability to hear sound. It may be partial or total, and it may occur slowly over time or suddenly. Signs to watch for that may indicate hearing loss include:
- ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
- difficulty following conversations with more than 2 people
- thinking others are not speaking clearly
- frequently misunderstand what others say and respond inappropriately
- if you are often told the TV or radio is too loud
- asking others to repeat themselves often
- difficulty hearing in crowds or noisy situations like meetings or restaurants
- missing phone calls or not hearing the doorbell
- trouble hearing when you are not facing the speaker
Among adults, who are more likely to experience hearing loss?
Adult men aged 20-69 are nearly twice as likely as women to experience hearing loss.
Hearing loss incidence:
- 20% percent of the U.S. population (48 million people) has some degree of hearing loss.
- About 15% of adults in the U.S. age 18 and older report some difficulty hearing.
- By age 65, one in three people experiences hearing loss.
- Nearly 15% of children aged 6-19 have some degree of hearing loss.
What are types of hearing loss?
There are 3 main types of hearing loss. The ear is made up of the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The types of hearing loss
- Conductive hearing loss occurs when sounds cannot get through the outer ear (ear canal) and middle ear (ear drum, and the bones of the middle ear) to the inner ear. Soft sounds may be difficult to hear, and louder sounds may be muffled.
- Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) occurs when there is damage to the inner ear. This is also called nerve-related hearing loss and is the most common type of permanent hearing loss.
- Mixed hearing loss occurs when conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss occur at the same time.
Hearing loss is only treated with hearing aids.
Once hearing loss occurs, it can be treated but in most cases the hearing loss is permanent. Hearing aids are the most common treatment to restore hearing. In some cases cochlear implants and surgery may cure conductive hearing loss. Other treatments for hearing loss involve learning to cope with the condition, such as learning sign language or lip reading to help communicate.
Only people with serious hearing loss need hearing aids.
A hearing aid is a small electronic device that makes some sounds louder and is worn in or behind the ear. The Hearing Loss Association of America estimates that 80% of people with hearing loss who could benefit from a hearing aid don't wear one.
Hearing aids can help people with hearing loss to better communicate. The need for a hearing aid is based on the degree of hearing loss, and a person's need to hear the sounds around them. Certain professions, such as teachers or psychologists, need to hear to do their jobs. Other people may not work or socialize much, and may live in quiet rural areas so a small degree of hearing loss is tolerable. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any signs of hearing loss to learn more about hearing aids and other options.
Images provided by:
Hear-it.org What Is Hearing Loss?
Hearing Loss Association of America. Basic Facts About Hearing Loss.
Heath In Aging. Hearing Loss Causes & Symptoms.
Better Hearing Institute. Signs of Hearing Loss.
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Quick Statistics About Hearing.
Better Hearing Institute. Prevalence of Hearing Loss.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Types of Hearing Loss.
Hear-it.org. What Is Hearing Loss.
Hearing Loss Association of America. Hearing Loss Facts and Statistics.
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Hearing Aids.
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