Hearing loss is the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. In the United States, one in three people between 65 and 74 years of age have hearing loss. More alarming, the prevalence of hearing loss doubles for every decade of life. These sobering statistics underscore the importance of hearing healthcare and early intervention for older adults.
While hearing loss might not seem all that serious, its implications can be. Hearing loss has been linked to higher rates of hospitalizations, falls, dementia and depression. Moreover, hearing loss can have negative psychosocial effects, such as isolation, loneliness, and anxiety. The breakdown in communication can have adverse effects on relationships with family, friends, and coworkers.
Here are the main causes of hearing loss:
- Age-related hearing loss — this is the leading cause of hearing loss and it’s essentially the slow degeneration of the auditory system. Damage to the sensitive hair cells in the ears interferes with their ability to help you hear. This type of hearing loss is usually bilateral and people with this kind of hearing loss cannot hear high-frequency sounds well, such as a child’s voice.
- Noise exposure — any prolonged exposure to loud noise can damage your hearing. Exposure to loud noise, such as a lawnmower, sirens or a concert can cause hearing damage, which could be temporary or permanent depending on the length of exposure and the loudness of the noise. You can reduce your risk for hearing loss by wearing protective gear, such as headphones and earplugs, and reducing the amount of time you’re exposed to loud sound.
- Chronic health conditions — some medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are believed to be contributing factors to hearing loss. Smoking and adiposity have also been linked to hearing loss. Adopting a healthier lifestyle is not only good for your overall health, but it could also benefit your hearing health.
- Therapeutic drugs — certain drugs are harmful for your hearing, including some chemotherapy medications and antibiotics.
There is no cure for hearing loss currently, but that doesn’t mean it’s inevitable. Being informed, taking proper precautions, and making healthier choices can all contribute to maintaining good hearing health.
Consulting with a hearing healthcare professional to get your hearing evaluated is a great step toward better hearing. Your provider is uniquely qualified to help identify your specific hearing loss and can prescribe a treatment protocol to match your needs and your lifestyle.
To find a nearby hearing professional or audiologist, simply type your zip code in here and you’ll a generate a list of local providers who you can reach out to for help.
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