Did you know that men aged between 20 and 69 are twice as likely to have a hearing loss than women of the same age, and according to the Hearing Loss Association of America, approximately 48 million Americans (20 percent) report some degree of hearing loss?
It seems we’re currently experiencing a hearing loss epidemic.
It comes as no surprise, whether the reason for a hearing loss is something as simple as not protecting your hearing when shooting or working in an industrial setting, or simply listening to music too loudly over a sustained period of time.
It seems everybody are obsessed with wearing headphones/earphones, with many hearing related charities and health organizations now urging people to take regular breaks from their headphones/earphones and to not go over the ‘safe’ volume level that many phones/devices have built into them.
However, with numerous reasons for a hearing loss, it can be easy to believe that hearing loss is a by-product of old age, however, in many cases, a hearing loss impacts the lives of younger people just as commonly.
There are four common reasons for a hearing loss:
1. Sensorineural – inner ear damage
Wear and tear happens everywhere in our bodies, but with our ears, it’s a little more severe, as exposure to loud noises can damage the little hairs or nerve cells in the cochlea responsible for sending the sound signals to the brain.
When the little hairy nerve cells get damaged, higher or even milder pitched tones may sound muffled until eventually a hearing loss occurs, which is what we call sensorineural.
Unfortunately, this type of a hearing loss is permanent.
2. Ruptured eardrum
Similar to the above, a ruptured eardrum can be the result of wear and tear or a standalone incident such as loud blasts of noise, sudden changes in pressure, or even poking your eardrum with an object.
3. Earwax build-up
There are many reasons why earwax builds up, but most notably it’s either hereditary or care hasn’t been taken to remove it regularly enough.
Earwax can block the ear canal and stop sound waves in their tracks – a bit like a dam. Leave the dam in place for too long and the strength of the sound waves weaken leaving you at risk of developing a hearing loss.
4. Ear infection, bone growths, or tumors
Usually found in the outer or middle ear, ear infections are more common in children than adults. Inflammation, tenderness, dizziness, or swelling are all symptoms of an infection.
In a condition known as Otosclerosis, abnormal bone growth can fuse together the ear’s 3 little stirrup bones that transmit sounds to the cochlea making hearing loss almost inevitable.
This is most common in people in their 20’s and 30’s, and if left untreated can cause severe hearing loss, but not total deafness.
If you find yourself struggling to hear low voices or whispers, find yourself speaking quietly because your voice sounds loud to you, or you even have tinnitus, these could be symptoms of Otosclerosis.
If you find yourself concerned about your hearing, it’s highly recommended to visit a Doctor of Audiology to have your hearing regularly assessed.
Catching a hearing loss early is one of the most important ways to care for your hearing health and protect your hearing.
Dr. Lacey Brooks received a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry in 2003, and earned her doctorate of audiology in 2009. She completed her clinical internships and residency at various facilities within Houston Medical Center. Dr. Brooks is a professional member of the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), a member of the Texas Academy of Audiology (TAA), and is certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). She is also the vice president of the Louisiana State University Houston Chapter Alumni Association.