We all may admit that good hearing is essential to our full enjoyment and participation in life. However, one-in-ten Americans—over 36 million people—experience some degree of hearing loss, yet it goes ignored for the most part. Hearing loss is the third leading chronic health condition among seniors, after arthritis and high blood pressure.
With this in mind, here are some other important hearing loss facts you may find interesting:
Hearing loss is not just a problem for the elderly.
People who are hard of hearing are not necessarily senior citizens any longer, particularly due to the many mobile music listening devices in use. Items like smartphones and other music players account for an increase in the number of people who have an effective hearing loss. About 65 percent of the hearing-impaired today are under age 65, with baby boomers among the fastest growing group. Unfortunately, the problem of hearing loss is growing younger—15 percent of recent college graduates have as much or more hearing loss than their parents. Over two million Americans with hearing loss are under age 18.
Untreated hearing loss has negative consequences.
If you think you may be hard of hearing, surveys show that the typical person with hearing problems waits over five years to see a health care professional about the problem. Although hearing loss is not a life-threatening condition, it can lower the quality of life for those who have it. Good news, however, is that clinical studies show that when hearing aids are properly fitted and used actively, these devices improve the overall quality of life for their users significantly.
There are definite downsides of choosing to wait without having your hearing examined and/or assisted properly. This is especially true if you are exposed to a high amount of loud noise or other hearing safety problems on a regular basis. Listed below are some good reasons for taking prompt action if you think you may be experiencing a loss of hearing:
Auditory Deprivation Effects
The term, ‘auditory deprivation,’ means a decrease in speech understanding that can result from hearing loss. Having a hearing loss can starve the auditory centers in the brain from receiving acoustic information. The use of a hearing aid allows the auditory centers of your brain to remain active and keep the deprivation from happening.
Hearing Loss & Dementia
Older patients with hearing loss were studied by Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging, to see if there might be a connection between hearing loss and the higher rate of dementia. Researchers found something they term, “cognitive reserve,” where the brain devotes extra resources to the process of deciphering words and sounds. This diminished capacity is compounded by hearing loss, which means people with fewer social interactions have less stimulation or less ‘exercise’ for their brains.
Hearing Loss & Income
The Better Hearing Institute conducted a study of 40,000 households and found that people with untreated hearing loss earn significantly less than people with normal hearing or those who treat their hearing loss. The difference can be as much as $30,000 per year in annual income! The good news is that high-quality aids correct this difference by up to 90 to 100 percent, depending on the degree of hearing loss.
Social & Emotional Aspects
Considerable evidence suggests that persons with untreated hearing loss may be more depressed and isolated socially compared to those of similar age who wear hearing aids. This may significant affect an individual’s quality of life on a daily basis, compared to those who enjoy greater hearing with the use of hearing instruments.
There are generally three types of hearing loss.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural loss is related to a problem in the inner ear, or the pathway between the ears and the brain. It is the most common form of hearing loss in otherwise healthy adults, and is the type most commonly treated with hearing aids. Its causes include:
Age • Noise Exposure • Cogenital
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive loss refers to a decrease in sound that is caused by a problem or obstruction in the outer or middle ear. While it indicates normal inner ear activity, sound is muffled due to the problem. The loss is usually treatable with medical or surgical intervention to relieve:
Fluid in middle ear • Perforation of ear drum • Wax in ear canal
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of Sensorineural hearing loss and Conductive hearing loss.
Age • Noise Exposure • Cogenital Fluid in middle ear • Perforation of ear drum • Wax in ear canal
Noise-induced hearing loss can be due to environment.
One of the best ways to prevent noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is to avoid harmful noises. Many of our more modern-day environmental sounds that we are exposed to every day can be the cause of hearing loss. These include: car horns and theft alarms, jet planes, headphones, office machines, rock concerts, or club atmospheres, lawn mowers and other outdoor equipment. NIHL is preventable when we limit our overexposure to high-volume sounds. The louder the sound you are exposed to, the shorter period of exposure it takes to damage the hair cells inside your ear that transmit sounds to your brain. Exposure to very loud noises at an event (such as a loud music concert or car race) can cause hearing impairment, sometimes accompanied by ringing in the ears, that may or may not go away over time.
The use of hearing protection can provide you a measure of safe hearing that reduces possible hearing damage and loss. Your professional audiologist can share more with you during your consultation.
For your convenience, Advanced Professional Hearing Aid Services, Inc. and Mid-Valley Hearing Center are located in Charleston and Hurricane.
Find the location nearest you, and call to schedule your consultation with our audiological experts today!