What is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss is a medical condition in which your auditory system does not function properly. With normal hearing, your outer ears pick up sound, which travels in your ear canal until it reaches the eardrum. Vibrations from your eardrum cause a chain of movement in your ear bones, which cause fluid in your inner ear to move. This movement is picked up by your inner ear hair cells, which transmit electrical signals to the brain, which are registered as sound.
Hearing loss occurs when one or more of these steps is hindered.
Prevalence of Hearing Loss
In the US, hearing loss is the third most common medical condition. It affects about 20% of the population, or 48 million Americans of all age groups.
Among older Americans, hearing loss occurs in higher rates. One in three people age 65 and older experience hearing loss, while 50% of people over 85 experience some degree of hearing loss. Among school-aged children, 30 out of every 1000 kids experience hearing loss. Approximately 1 to 6 out of 1000 infants are born with congenital hearing loss.
In the workforce, approximately 60% of people experience some degree of hearing loss. An estimated 60% of veterans returning from combat zones report hearing loss and tinnitus.
Types and Causes of Hearing Loss
There are three types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss. Hearing loss can be categorized in terms of its degree (slight, mild, moderate, severe, profound), and it could affect one or both ears.
Hearing Loss and Tinnitus
Hearing specialists estimate that tinnitus occurs in 80% to 90% of hearing loss cases. Tinnitus is a condition in which one experiences sounds without any external stimulus. Known commonly as “ringing of the ear,” tinnitus could range in sound from a ringing to a whistling to a buzzing to a roar. The sounds of tinnitus are unique to the person and can be categorized as chronic or temporary.
Tinnitus has no singular cause, but has links to sensorineural hearing loss. It is believed that damage to inner ear hair cells could lead to tinnitus, as the damaged cells “leak” sound. Many hearing aid manufacturers have equipped their hearing aids with tinnitus therapy features to provide relief for wearers who experience tinnitus symptoms.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is an invisible condition, which means people do not often notice right away that their hearing abilities are changing. The following are common signs of hearing loss (from the Better Hearing Institute):
Hearing Loss Treatment
If you’ve identified with a number of the above statements, chances are you may have a hearing loss. People wait an average of seven years from the time they first experience hearing loss to the time they decide to seek hearing loss help. Treating hearing loss early on is important to both your social and emotional well-being. Hearing loss is most commonly treated with the prescription of hearing aids, fitted to meet your specific hearing needs.
The first step in treating hearing loss is to take a hearing test. At Hearing Wellness Solutions, we provide comprehensive hearing tests. With your hearing test results, we can work with you to find a hearing treatment that works best for you.