Healthy Living

Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss Facts in America

More than 360 million people have disabling hearing loss, according to February 2013 research released by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO). Obviously, hearing loss is a major health issue. It is the third most common physical condition in America after arthritis and heart disease. Hearing loss is seen by most Americans as something that happens to our ears as we age. However, due to the noisy nature of modern living coupled with the lifestyle choices young people are making that involves listening to loud music, more Americans have a greater risk of acquiring a hearing loss earlier in life.

Here are some facts about hearing loss:

  • About 48 million or 20% of Americans report hearing loss of some kind
  • Among adults under 70 years of age, only 16 percent of people use hearing aids who could benefit from them
  • More than half of the people with hearing loss are in educational settings or in the workplace
  • Up to 3 per every 1,000 children are hard of hearing or deaf
  • Men are more likely than women to report hearing loss
  • At age 65, one in three people have hearing loss
  • Tinnitus affects 20% of Americans, and hearing loss occurs in 90% of those people

Gradual hearing loss can affect people of all ages -- varying from mild to profound. Hearing loss is a sudden or gradual decrease in how well you can hear. Depending on the cause, it can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.

There are three types of hearing loss:

  • Conductive hearing loss - when hearing loss is due to problems with the ear canal, ear drum, or middle ear and its little bones (the malleus, incus, and stapes).
  • Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) - when hearing loss is due to problems of the inner ear, also known as nerve-related hearing loss.
  • Mixed hearing loss - refers to a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. This means that there may be damage in the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve.

What are the Symptoms of Hearing Loss?

Signs and symptoms of hearing loss may include:

  • Muffling of speech and other sounds
  • Difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise or in a crowd of people
  • Trouble hearing consonants
  • Frequently asking others to speak more slowly, clearly and loudly
  • Needing to turn up the volume of the television or radio
  • Withdrawal from conversations
  • Avoidance of some social settings

Aging and chronic exposure to loud noises are significant factors that contribute to hearing loss. Other factors, such as excessive earwax, can temporarily prevent your ears from conducting sounds as well as they should. You can't reverse most types of hearing loss. However, you don't have to live in a world of muted, less distinct sounds. You and your doctor or a hearing specialist can take steps to improve what you hear. Make sure to have a regular checkups with your doctor to prevent hearing loss if possible.