Facts About Hearing Loss
Many people are affected by hearing loss. In fact, the latest available statistics show that over 10% of the U.S. population report difficulty hearing! That's over 31.5 million people! And as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, that number promises to increase dramatically.
Are you are one of those millions of people who do not hear as well as they once did? If so, you are certainly not alone. Hearing loss does not just affect the "elderly". Hearing difficulties affect all age groups. In fact, the majority (65%) of people with hearing loss are younger than age 65. Consider these additional 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.
- There are more than six million people in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 44 with hearing loss, and nearly one and a half million people are school age.
Time and 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 linked untreated hearing loss to:
- Irritability, negativism and anger
- Fatigue, tension, stress and depression
- Avoidance or withdrawal from social situations
- Social rejection and loneliness
- Reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety
- Impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks
- Reduced job performance and earning power
- Diminished psychological and overall health
Types of Hearing Loss
Not all hearing loss is corrected through the use of hearing instruments or alternative listening devices. The type of hearing loss determines the specific treatment required.
There are four types of hearing loss:
- Conductive: Conductive hearing loss is caused by any condition or disease that blocks or impedes the conveyance of sound through the middle ear. The result is a reduction in the sound intensity (loudness) that reaches the cochlea. Often, conductive hearing loss can be treated with a complete or partial improvement in hearing. Conductive hearing loss could be caused by something as simple as earwax buildup!
- Sensorineural: Sensorineural hearing loss results from inner ear (the tiny nerve cells in the cochlea are missing or damaged) or auditory nerve dysfunction. Often, the cause cannot be determined. It is typically irreversible and permanent. It, too, reduces the intensity of sound, but it might also result in a lack of clarity even when sounds, particularly speech, are loud enough. The treatment for sensorineural hearing loss is amplification through hearing instruments.
- Mixed: This is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing losses.
- Central: Central hearing loss occurs when systems in the brain above the level of the cochlear nerve cells and auditory nerve are affected. Strokes, certain types of tumors, and central nerve diseases are often the cause of this type of hearing loss.
Causes of Hearing Loss
- External Ear
- Malformation of the outer ear where an opening to the ear canal does not form
- Blockage in the ear canal, such as a foreign body or accumulated ear wax
- Middle ear
- Perforation of the ear drum from trauma or disease
- Ear infections (fluid build-up in the middle ear)
- Middle ear bones are broken or not functioning correctly
- Excessive noise expose (i.e., construction, rock music, gun shots, etc.)
- Birth defects or genetic disorders
- Presbycusis - hearing loss from aging
- Ototoxic drugs (medications that can damage or kill the nerve cells in the cochlea)
- Cancer treatments - chemotherapy and radiation therapy
- Head trauma - fractured temporal bone, which is near the area for hearing in the brain
- Diseases of the vascular system, such as sickle cell anemia
- Kidney disease
- Meniere's syndrome
- Congenital (occurs at birth) infections such as toxoplasmosis, rubella, CMV, herpes, or other bacterial infections like syphilis
- Acoustic neuroma or other tumors on/or near the nerve of hearing and balance
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