Hearing loss is a widespread condition affecting a significant portion of the population, and becomes increasingly common the older we get. Approximately 35 million adults in the U.S. suffer from hearing loss. Older adults aren’t the only ones affected: hearing loss can strike younger people, too. But solutions to improve hearing are available.
Signs of Hearing Impairment
Hearing loss is defined as having a decreased sensitivity to sounds, and is measured in degrees ranging from mild to profound. People with hearing loss have trouble understanding speech and following conversations. Words will seem muffled, the volume will appear to be too low, and background noises will overwhelm and distract the listener. Tinnitus – a ringing in the ears – may also be present.
There are plenty of solutions for managing your hearing loss. See a doctor if you are having any problems hearing.
Hearing Loss Causes
Many factors contribute to hearing loss. Presbycusis (age-related hearing loss) is the most common, but is far from the only one. Younger people are increasingly at risk for developing hearing loss with prolonged exposure to loud noise (i.e. playing music at unsafe levels through a personal music device such as an iPod). A noisy workplace, trauma to the ears, physical abnormalities or birth defects, chronic ear infections, and excess earwax can all lead to hearing damage.
Some types of hearing loss are temporary. If you’ve got a buildup of earwax blocking your ear canals, your doctor can remove this in a simple office procedure. Ruptured eardrums and ear infections tend to heal on their own fairly quickly. Surgery may correct certain abnormalities.
Other types of hearing loss, such as presbycusis, are considered permanent and cannot be corrected – but they can be managed successfully with a variety of hearing aids and other devices.
Treating Hearing Loss
There are a variety of treatment options for hearing loss, depending on the cause and level of your impairment. If your hearing loss is permanent, hearing aids are likely to help restore your ability to hear and communicate. There are numerous options ranging from traditional hearing aids worn over the ear to extended-wear hearing aids implanted deep within the ear canal. Cochlear implants or BAHA’s may help those who can’t benefit from conventional hearing aids. Speak with your audiologist to find out which type of instrument will work best for your hearing loss.