Hearing Loss Facts

You may think of hearing loss as a problem affecting the elderly, but this simply isn’t the case. In reality, more than half of the 38 million American adults affected are under the age of 65. A number of factors may contribute to hearing loss including natural aging, excessive noise exposure, impacted earwax, trauma or injury, disease and ototoxic medications. Hearing loss affects people of all ages.

There are two main types of hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss affects the middle ear structures including the ear canal and eardrum. It is often the result of treatable conditions such as earwax buildup, ear infections, trauma and abnormal growths. Sensorineural hearing loss, the most common type, occurs in the inner ear and is the result of nerve damage. It may be caused by noise exposure, diseases, tumors, hereditary factors and presbycusis (natural aging). While sensorineural hearing loss is not curable, it is usually successfully treated with hearing aids. Occasionally, mixed hearing loss – a combination of both types – may occur.

Hearing loss is measured in degrees, and ranges from mild (soft sounds are easily understood) to profound (anything under 90dB is hard to hear). High frequencies are usually the first to go, making speech difficult to understand even when heard correctly. It is estimated that only 1 out of every 5 people who would benefit from hearing aids actually wears them.

Hearing impaired individuals who cannot benefit from hearing aids may be eligible for cochlear implants. These devices enable even the profoundly deaf to communicate.