If you are having trouble with your hearing, you are not alone. In fact, the latest available statistics show that over 10% of the U.S. population reports difficulty hearing. Currently, that’s more than 31 million people. As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, that number promises to increase dramatically.
Consider these statistics reported by Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Better Hearing Institute
- 3 in 10 people over age 60 have hearing loss
- 1 in 6 baby boomers (ages 41-59), or 14.6%, have a hearing problem
- 1 in 14 Generation Xers (ages 29-40), or 7.4%, already have hearing loss
- At least 1.4 million children (18 or younger) have hearing problems
- It is estimated that 3 in 1,000 infants are born with serious to profound hearing loss.
In addition, studies have linked untreated hearing loss to emotional, physical, mental, psychological and even economic disadvantages. To make matters worse, there are many “myths” about hearing loss that prevent those with hearing loss from doing anything about it.
Causes of Hearing Loss
One of the most common “myths” about hearing loss is that only “old people” deal with it. In fact, the reverse is true. The majority (65%) of people with hearing loss are younger than 65, and six million people in the U.S. between 18 and 44 live with hearing loss (Better Hearing Institute website).
While “exposure to noise” ranks number one for the main cause of hearing loss, several other factors can diminish an individual’s hearing health.
- Exposure to noise
- Family history of hearing loss
- Aging process
- Head trauma
Types of Hearing Loss
Not all hearing loss can be corrected through the use of digital hearing aids or other listening devices. The type of hearing loss determines the specific treatment required.
There are four types of hearing loss:
- Conductive: This could be caused by something as simple as ear wax buildup
- Sensorineural: This is caused when tiny hairs in the cochlea are missing or damaged.
- Mixed: This is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
- Central: Strokes and central nerve diseases are often the cause of this type of hearing loss.
Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is often gradual and, therefore, something that you adapt to. You may not notice it for months. Even years. But slowly, the hearing apparatus that you were born with does wear out for many as we grow older, and it’s simply part of the aging process – and not one of the good ones.
Many people are aware that their hearing has deteriorated but they are reluctant to seek help. Perhaps they don’t want to acknowledge the problem, are embarrassed by what they see as a weakness, or believe that they can “get by” without using a hearing aid. And, unfortunately, too many wait years, even decades, before getting treatment.
But time and time again, research demonstrates the considerable negative social, psychological, cognitive and health effects of untreated hearing loss…with far-reaching implications that go well beyond hearing alone. In fact, those who have difficulty hearing can experience such distorted and incomplete communication that it seriously impacts their professional and personal lives, at times leading to isolation and withdrawal. Studies have lined hearing loss to:
- Irritability, negativism, and anger
- Fatigue, tension, stress, and depression
- Avoidance or withdrawal from social situations
- Social rejection and loneliness
- Impaired memory and ability to learn new skills
- Reduced job performance and earning power
- Diminished psychological and overall health
- Reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety
Furthermore, there’s a growing collection of detailed studies that demonstrate that people with hearing loss do better addressing the limitation when they act quickly. In other words, when your family tells you to turn down the TV, it’s time for a hearing test.
Hearing Loss is not just an ailment of old age. It can strike at any time and any age, even childhood. For the young, even a mild or moderate case of hearing loss could bring difficulty learning, developing speech, and building the important interpersonal skills necessary to foster self-esteem and succeed in school and life.
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