Hearing loss is the third most common physical condition in the United States, after arthritis and heart disease.
It affects approximately 48 million Americans – 20% of the population – with one in three people over the age of 65 experiencing some degree of hearing loss. In the workforce and education settings, approximately 60% of people experience hearing loss, and 60% of veterans returning from combat zones in Afghanistan and Iraq have reported hearing loss and tinnitus. Approximately 14% of people between the ages of 45 and 64 have some type of hearing loss, while 15% of children between 6 and 19 years of age have measurable hearing loss in at least one ear. The numbers of young people with hearing loss has been rising in recent years due to usage of earbuds and small personal electronic devices.
As an invisible condition, hearing loss is not easily detected, and in fact, it takes people an average of seven years between the time they notice changes in their hearing and when they schedule a hearing test.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Approximately 14% of people between the ages of 45 and 64 have some type of hearing loss.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are three types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed.
1. Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss affects the outer and middle ear, and is generally related to congenital malformations of the ear. It is caused by tumors, middle ear fluid from ear infection, trauma, or impacted earwax. In some cases, conductive hearing loss may be reversed with surgery.
2. Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss affects the inner ear and hair cells, which translate sound waves into neural signals that are sent to the brain to be registered as sound. Exposure to loud noise, presbycusis, and malformation of the inner ear are common causes. Once hair cells have been damaged, they do not regenerate.
3. Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, affecting various areas of the ear.
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How to Prevent Hearing Loss
In certain cases of hearing loss, caused by ototoxic medication or congenital malformations of the ear, hearing loss may be reversed by discontinuing the use of the drug or through surgery.
Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable by using ear protection before exposure to loud sounds. Whether you are a musician, construction worker, hunter, or hair stylist, your daily activities may expose you to dangerous volumes. Custom ear protection, molded to fit your ear, is the best option for prevention. Additionally, using noise-canceling headphones rather than ear buds is recommended. Hearing specialists recommend using the 60-60 rule when listening to music or media: 60% volume for no more than 60 minutes a day.
If you notice changes in your hearing, contact us for a hearing test and consultation.