Basic Facts About Hearing Loss
- About 17 percent of adults in the United States, 36 million, report some degree of hearing loss.
- At age 65, one out of three people has a hearing loss.
- 60 percent of the people with hearing loss are either in the work force or in educational settings.
- While people in the workplace with the mildest hearing losses show little or no drop in income compared to their normal hearing peers, as the hearing loss increases, so does the reduction in compensation.
- About 2-3 of every 1,000 children are hard of hearing or deaf.
- Estimated that 30 school children per 1,000 have a hearing loss
Hearing Loss Overview
Hearing loss is the total or partial inability to hear sound in one or both ears. Hearing loss falls into two major categories. The first category, called conductive hearing loss, occurs in the outer and middle ear, when the transmission of sound vibrations is prevented from reaching the inner ear.
Examples of this are having too much wax in the ear, a hole in the eardrum, or fluid behind the eardrum. The second category, called sensory-neural hearing loss, occurs in the inner ear, when sound vibrations are unable to be converted into electrical signals that the brain can process. An example of this is hearing that is diminished or lost due to exposure to loud noise, genetics, medications, or the natural aging process. You and your doctor or hearing profressional may discuss the many possible options for improving hearing.
Things to Know about Hearing Loss
- Hearing loss is a major public health issue that is the third most common physical condition after arthritis and heart disease.
- Gradual hearing loss can affect people of all ages — varying from mild to profound. Hearing loss is a sudden or gradual decrease in how well you can hear.
- Depending on the cause, it can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.
- Degrees of hearing loss: mild, moderate, severe, profound.
- Congenital hearing loss means you are born without hearing, while gradual hearing loss happens over time.
- Hearing loss is an invisible condition; we cannot see hearing loss, only its effects. Because the presence of a hearing loss is not visible, these effects may be attributed to aloofness, confusion, or personality changes.
- In adults, the most common causes of hearing loss are noise and aging. There is a strong relationship between age and reported hearing loss.
- In age-related hearing loss, known as presbycusis, changes in the inner ear that happen as you get older cause a slow but steady hearing loss. The loss may be mild or severe, and it is always permanent.
- In older people, a hearing loss is often confused with, or complicates, such conditions as dementia.
- Noise-induced hearing loss may happen slowly over time or suddenly. Being exposed to everyday noises, such as listening to very loud music, being in a noisy work environment, or using a lawn mower, can lead to hearing loss over many years.
- Other causes of hearing loss include earwax buildup, an object in the ear, injury to the ear or head, ear infection, a ruptured eardrum, and other conditions that affect the middle or inner ear.
What are the Symptoms of Hearing Loss?
- Muffled hearing and a feeling that your ear is plugged.
- Trouble understanding what people are saying, especially when other people are talking or when there is background noise, such as a radio.
- Listening to the TV or radio at a higher volume than in the past.
- Depression. Many adults may become depressed because of how hearing loss affects their social lives.
How is Hearing Loss diagnosed?
A hearing loss is diagnosed based on the person’s history, behavior, and the results of medical and audiological examinations. The physician will refer you to the audiologist who will conduct the hearing evaluation by delivering a series of tones and words to the patient in the sound-treated room. The results from this evaluation are recorded on the Audiogram.
Three Types of Hearing Loss
- Conductive Hearing Loss: When hearing loss is due to problems with the ear canal, ear drum, or middle ear and its little bones (the malleus, incus, and stapes).
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL): When hearing loss is due to problems of the inner ear, also known as nerve-related hearing loss.
- Mixed Hearing Loss: Refers to a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. This means that there may be damage in the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve.