Hearing Loss Facts
There are many misconceptions about hearing loss. At Northwest Audiology & Hearing Aid Center, we believe that the better you understand the facts, the better equipped you’ll be to make informed decisions about your hearing health.
MYTH: “I’m not old enough to have a hearing problem.”
FACT: Hearing loss affects approximately 38 million Americans — or about 12% of the population. But only 35% of people with hearing loss are older than 64, according to the Better Hearing Institute (BHI). Nearly 6 million people between the ages of 18 and 44 are hearing-impaired, says the BHI. In addition, at least 1.4 million children (18 or younger) have hearing problems.
MYTH: “My type of hearing loss is not treatable.”
FACT: There are two types of hearing loss: conductive and sensorineural. The most common type is sensorineural, which is caused by damage to the nerve endings in the inner ear or hearing nerve. The good news is, nearly 95% of people with a sensorineural hearing loss can be helped with hearing aids.
MYTH: “I can get by just fine without hearing aids.”
FACT: Untreated hearing loss comes with significant consequences — even if you think your hearing loss is just “mild.” In fact, studies have linked untreated hearing loss with social isolation, as well as with an increased risk for depression, dementia, falling and illness requiring hospitalization. Other studies have connected untreated hearing loss with lower earning power in the workplace.
MYTH: “There’s nothing I can do to prevent hearing loss.”
FACT: You may be surprised to know that exposure to noise — not the aging process — is the number-one cause of hearing loss. It’s also the most preventable cause, but only if you use earplugs or other hearing protection products. We advise you to wear hearing protection anytime you’re exposed to noise at or above 85 decibels. Common sources of damaging noise include lawn mowers and other power equipment, MP3 players, guns, fireworks, motorcycles, ATVs, sporting events and concerts.
COMMON SIGNS OF HEARING LOSS
- Frequently ask others to repeat themselves
- Have difficulty following conversations involving two or more people and/or conversations in noisy environments
- Have trouble understanding people with high voices, especially children and women
- Turn up the TV or radio too loud for others in your household
- Respond inappropriately in conversations
- Try to read lips and/or facial expressions when people speak to you
- Feel stressed and/or annoyed with other people because you can’t understand them
- Avoid social situations that you once enjoyed
Your risk for hearing loss may be higher if you:
- Have a family history of hearing loss
- Take certain medications that are known to damage the hearing system
- Have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure or thyroid problems
FACTS ABOUT TINNITUS
Tinnitus affects more than 45 million Americans, according to the American Tinnitus Association. While it’s commonly called “ringing in the ears,” tinnitus sufferers often describe the sound in their head as humming, buzzing, roaring, clicking, whistling, hissing, static, screeching, cricket-like chirps, pulsing, ocean waves, dial tones and even music. Causes include exposure to loud noise, the aging process, head injuries and a reaction to some drugs. Tinnitus often occurs with a hearing loss.
In most cases, there is no cure for tinnitus. However, many individuals find relief through various treatment methods, such as therapy, counseling and tinnitus masking devices. Some people have experienced relief simply by wearing their hearing aids.
FACTS ABOUT VESTIBULAR DISORDERS
As many as 35% of Americans age 40 or older — approximately 69 million people —have experienced some form of vestibular dysfunction, according to the Vestibular Disorders Association. Symptoms include problems with balance and dizziness (vertigo).
The vestibular system comprises the parts of the inner ear and brain that process the sensory information involved with controlling balance and eye movements. If disease or injury damages these processing areas, vestibular disorders can result. Vestibular disorders can also result from, or be worsened by, genetic or environmental conditions, or they may occur for unknown reasons.
OTHER INFORMATION RESOURCES
Better Hearing Institute — Information about hearing loss and hearing aids
American Academy of Audiology — “How’s Your Hearing?” consumer site
American Tinnitus Association — Information about tinnitus and how to manage it
Vestibular Disorders Association — Information about vestibular disorders