Hearing Loss

What Is Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is defined as the partial or complete inability to hear. This condition interferes with your ability to hear the full spectrum of sound that one would with normal hearing. Most cases of hearing loss are permanent, but the use of hearing aids restores many of the sounds that one loses with hearing loss.

Prevalence of Hearing Loss

hearing-lossHearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the US. Affecting 48 million Americans – or 20% of the population – hearing loss may occur to anyone, at any age.

For older Americans over the age of 65, the incidence of hearing loss increases to one in three people. Fifty-percent of people over the age of 75 experience some degree of hearing loss.

In recent years, the number of younger people with hearing loss has risen. Hearing specialists believe this is due to the usage of earbuds and ubiquity of portable electronic devices. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 1.1 billion teenagers at risk of permanent hearing damage.

In the workforce, approximately 60% of Americans experience some degree of hearing loss. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration have seen a rise in work-related hearing loss in the past 25 years. Similarly, 60% of veterans returning from combat zones have reported cases of hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing of the ears).

Types and Causes of Hearing Loss

There are three main types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed.

Conductive hearing loss interferes with the ear’s ability to receive and amplify sound. Conductive hearing loss is caused by problems with outer and middle ear: ear canal, ear drum, or ear bones (malleus, incus, and stapes). This type of hearing loss is caused by any of the following issues: malformation of the outer and middle ear structures; fluid in the middle ear from colds; ear infection; poor Eustachian tube function; perforated ear drum; benign tumors; impacted earwax; or otosclerosis.

Sensorineural hearing loss interferes with the process in which sound vibrations are translated into neural signals sent to the brain to be received as sound. Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear, commonly the inner ear hair cells, which do not regenerate once they die or are damaged. Age-related (presbycusis) and noise-induced hearing loss are both forms of sensorineural hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is caused by any of the following issues: exposure to loud noise; head trauma; age; virus or disease; genetic hearing loss; malformation of the inner ear; or Meniere’s disease.

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, and may affect various parts of the ear simultaneously.

Early Signs of Hearing Loss

Early signs of hearing loss include: asking people to repeat themselves; thinking that everyone is mumbling; having trouble hearing in group conversations; turning up the volume on TV and radio; having difficulty with phone calls; having difficulty hearing someone behind you; and avoiding social situations.

Benefits of Treating Hearing Loss

Hearing LossMost people wait an average of seven years from the time they first notice changes in their hearing before they decide to seek treatment. Identifying and treating hearing loss as soon as possible brings many benefits – not only to your hearing health, but to your overall physical and emotional health.

Hearing loss tends to increase one’s cognitive load, as you struggle to make sense of sound signals. This increased cognitive load has been linked to an increased risk of dementia. Studies have indicated that treating hearing loss has the potential to diminish the risk of dementia.

People who treat hearing loss have higher earning power than colleagues with untreated hearing loss. Treating hearing loss also decreases the risk of accidents and falls. People with untreated hearing loss tend to experience higher risk of depression, stress, and anxiety, due to social isolation. By treating hearing loss, we are able to maintain relationships with friends, colleagues, family, and loved ones.

Are you experiencing signs of hearing loss?

We invite you to schedule a hearing test with our Audioprosthologist and Board Certified Hearing Instrument Specialist, Jill Klein, ACA, BC-HIS.

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