Q. What causes hearing loss?
A. Hearing loss has many causes. The most common cause is exposure to noise. Usually, damage results from long-term exposure to loud noise, but even brief exposure to extremely loud noise can permanently harm hearing. Listening to loud music through headphones has become a common cause of hearing loss, even as industrial exposure to loud noise has been reduced. Head trauma can lead to hearing loss, especially in young children.
may be caused by a mechanical problem in the external ear canal or middle ear that blocks the conduction of sound (conductive hearing loss). Blockage of the external ear canal can be due to something as mundane as an accumulation of wax or something as uncommon as a tumor. The most common cause of conductive hearing loss in the middle ear, especially in children, is an accumulation of fluid.
Fluid can accumulate as a result of ear infections or conditions, such as allergies or tumors that block the Eustachian tube, which drains the middle ear. Hearing loss also may be caused by damage to the sensory structures (hair cells) of the inner ear, auditory nerve, or auditory nerve pathways in the brain (sensorineural hearing loss). These sensory structures may be damaged by drugs, infections, tumors, and skull injuries. Hearing loss can be a mixture of conductive and sensorineural loss.
Q. What does the degree of hearing loss mean?
A. Mild hearing loss - Unable to hear soft sounds and difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments.
Moderate hearing loss - Unable to hear soft and moderately loud sounds, considerable difficulty in understanding speech, particularly with background noise.
Severe hearing loss
- Unable to hear most sounds. Speakers must raise their voice to be heard. Group conversation is possible only with considerable effort.
Profound hearing loss
- Some very loud sounds are audible but
communication without a hearing instrument or through sign language is very difficult.
Q. Is hearing loss common?
A. Yes. Hearing problems are extremely common. According to the Center for Hearing and Communication, an estimated 38 million people in the United States have a hearing loss, which is one in every 10 Americans. Additionally, 78 million rockin' and rollin' Baby Boomers are approaching, what used to be called "senior adulthood" and could suffer from greater incidences of hearing loss.
Hearing Loss and Adults
In the United States, it's thought that roughly 14% of the adult population has
some hearing difficulty. With aging
of the world’s population, numbers
are growing rapidly. Research shows 30 to 40% of people over the age of 60 have some type of hearing loss; it's believed that this number is higher since
people with hearing loss are often embarrassed by the condition and do not report it. Other segments of this population include baby boomers (41 to 59), of which one in every six have hearing loss, or 14.6%, and Generation Xers (ages 29 to 40), of which one in every 14, or 7.4%, already have hearing loss.
Q. Should I ignore my hearing loss?
A. No! Though hearing loss is not medically life threatening, clinical studies show that untreated hearing loss can negatively impact your job performance, your social life, your relationships with friends and family, and ultimately your physical well-being.