Did you know that hearing loss is twice as common as diabetes and cancer? Hearing loss is one of the most pervasive health conditions that people live with today. Over 48 million people have some degree of impaired hearing which reduces one’s capacity to hear and process speech as well as sound. This takes a toll on hearing and communication which are major ways that we navigate and experience the world. Untreated hearing loss can significantly affect relationships, social life, work, and overall health. Understanding what causes hearing loss, learning how to identify early signs, and intervening by addressing symptoms can profoundly transform your health and wellness.
Common Causes of Hearing Loss
There are numerous factors that can cause hearing loss. A few of the most common causes include the following:
- Aging: the risk of developing hearing loss increases with age, which is the strongest indicator of impaired hearing. Age related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, can be caused by a few factors, including changes that happen to the ears over time (like bone growths or other structural changes), the cumulative impact of loud noise exposure over decades, and medical conditions that disproportionately impact older adults.
- Loud noise: exposure to loud noise is another common cause of hearing loss. Over 30 million people are exposed to excessive noise levels according to the Hearing Health Foundation. Regular – or even one time – exposure to loud noise can damage the sensory cells in the inner ear. This prevents them from effectively and efficiently processing soundwaves, resulting in the brain receiving less auditory information. Because sensory cells do not regenerate, any damage they experience is permanent; resulting in chronic noise induced hearing loss.
- Medical conditions: substantial studies reveal that there are several medical conditions that can increase the risk of hearing loss. A few examples include cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Research shows that people who have these existing conditions can be more at risk of developing hearing loss.
- Head injuries: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 3 million head injuries occur every year. The most common ways people experience head injuries include falls, injuries from sports, and car as well as biking accidents. Head injuries can cause hearing loss in a few ways including damaging the bones in the middle ear, rupturing the eardrum, impairing sensory cells in the inner ear, or damaging the parts of the brain that process auditory information.
Additional causes of hearing loss include inner ear disorders, chronic ear infections, autoimmune conditions, behaviors like smoking and drinking, and ototoxic medications.
Early Signs of Hearing Loss
It takes an average of 7 years for people to address their hearing loss. This significant delay in treatment can worsen hearing loss and its effects on everyday life. What often contributes to this delay is that people don’t immediately recognize symptoms. Hearing loss often occurs gradually, so symptoms may remain unnoticed for quite some time. Being able to recognize early signs can help you identify changes you experience to your hearing health early, supporting early intervention which is incredibly beneficial. Common signs of hearing loss include:
- Tinnitus: a ringing or buzzing sound in one or both ears that only you are able to hear.
- Sounds are slurred, muffled, or distorted.
- You have a hard time hearing in places with background noise, like restaurants.
- Lip reading to help identify individual words.
- Frequently asking others to repeat what they said or to speak louder.
- Being able to hear better out of one ear compared to the other.
- Increasing the volume on your TV or phone.
- Missing calls because you didn’t hear your phone ring.
- Pretending to hear what someone said.
- Keeping conversations short.
- Moving to a quieter space to be able to hear more clearly.
- Experiencing miscommunication, feeling lost during conversations.
These symptoms can be mild to more severe depending on the degree of hearing loss you have. These symptoms not only strain communication but also health, relationships, and social life, which underscores the importance of seeking treatment.
Prioritize Your Hearing Health Today
Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation. Treating hearing loss offers many benefits that allow people to live actively.