Hearing loss is the loss of hearing in one or both ears, ranging from mild to profound. There are many causes, and it can affect anyone at any age, but it's most common among people older than 60.
The good news is that there are numerous solutions, including hearing aids. By learning more about the symptoms, causes, tests, treatments and prevention of hearing loss, it is easier to understand how it impacts you or your loved one—and what you can do about it.
Hearing loss, by the numbers
The statistics are astonishing:
- The average delay between the time someone is affected by hearing loss and when they finally seek treatment is 7 years.
- In the U.S., about 1 out of every 8 people have hearing loss.
- Of babies born in the U.S., 2 to 3 of every 1,000 have a detectable hearing loss in at least one ear.
- Only 16 percent of adults who could benefit from hearing aids have tried them.
- Of adults aged 65-74, 25 percent have a disabling hearing loss, and 50 percent of adults over the age of 75 have a disabling hearing loss.
The hidden dangers of untreated hearing loss
Hearing loss can have far-reaching implications for you and those close to you. Untreated hearing loss is associated with the followinh health risks:
- a lower quality of life
- depression, social isolation and cognitive decline
- unemployment and lower earnings at work
- higher medical costs for other health issues
- higher risk of dangerous trips and falls
Fortunately, hearing loss is well-understood and often treatable with hearing aids. By seeking information here, you’ve taken a smart first step.
Symptoms of hearing loss
The symptoms of hearing loss can vary depending on the type of hearing loss, the cause of hearing loss, and the degree of loss.
In general, people who have hearing loss may experience any or all of the following:
- Difficulty understanding everyday conversation
- A feeling of being able to hear but not understand
- Having to turn up the TV or radio
- Asking others to repeat often
- Avoidance of social situations that were once enjoyable
- Increased difficulty communicating in noisy situations like restaurants, lively family gatherings, in the car or in group meetings
- Tinnitus, or ringing and/or buzzing sounds in the ears
Types of hearing loss
There are three main types of hearing loss, and you can read more about each type here.
- Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss. It is permanent and caused by many different conditions that damage tiny hair-like cells in the inner ear or the auditory nerve. The auditory nerve carries important information about the loudness, pitch and meaning of sounds to the brain. Most adults with hearing loss have a sensorineural loss. Sensorineural hearing loss can often result in difficulty understanding sound or speech even though it is loud enough to hear.
- Conductive hearing loss is caused by a mechanical problem in the outer or middle ear or an obstruction in the ear canal, such as ear wax that blocks sound from getting to the eardrum. It can be permanent, but more often it is temporary and can be medically treated.
- Mixed hearing loss results when there are components of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.
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