Hearing loss is a widespread condition that affects 48 million Americans. That means about one in five Houston residents experiences hearing impairment to some degree. Despite its prevalence, many people have false assumptions about hearing loss.
Let’s take a look at some of the more common myths and examine their validity.
Five Assumptions About Hearing Loss
Fact: hearing loss is the third most common chronic condition in the U.S. Only arthritis and heart disease rank higher. Not so factual: the following.
- Hearing loss only affects older people. Your risk of hearing loss does increase with age; the cumulative effects of a lifetime of noise exposure naturally cause damage to the sensory cells of the cochlea. But in reality, hearing loss affects people of all ages—even adolescents. In fact, one-third of all people with a hearing impairment are younger than 59. Factors such as noise, disease and trauma can all cause irreversible hearing damage.
- Hearing loss is simply a nuisance. Yes, it is inconvenient—but also dangerous. People with hearing loss have a higher risk of developing significant physical, psychological and social health conditions, especially if they don’t seek treatment. Not only are you more likely to experience anxiety, depression, social isolation and dementia, research shows you are 32 percent more likely to be hospitalized, and your risk of falling—the number one cause of death in the elderly—is three times greater. Hearing loss is costly in other ways, as well; hearing-impaired workers earn on average $12,000 less per year than their coworkers with normal hearing.
- Hearing loss cannot be prevented. While some types of hearing loss can’t be prevented, there are steps you can take to reduce your odds of developing noise-induced hearing loss—the number one cause of hearing impairment, especially in younger people. Limiting your exposure to loud sounds and protecting your hearing by wearing earplugs when engaging in noisy activities will go a long way toward keeping your hearing healthy. This is especially important when attending concerts or sporting events, riding motorcycles or jet skis and using power tools. Adopt the “60/60 rule” when listening to music through earbuds: set the volume to no more than 60 percent of maximum and listen for no more than 60 minutes at a time.
- Hearing loss will improve without treatment. Early on, some people hold out hope that their condition is temporary and their hearing will eventually improve. Unfortunately, once the hair cells of the cochlea are damaged, they cannot be repaired. In most cases, hearing loss grows progressively worse over time. The only real way the majority of those affected will regain some hearing ability is through the use of hearing aids.
- Hearing aids are bulky and ineffective. This might have been true once upon a time, but digital technology has allowed manufacturers to make them smaller and more comfortable, and led to significant improvements in functionality and sound quality. Bluetooth® technology has enabled direct streaming with other devices, and manufacturers are beginning to take advantage of IFTTT software to develop a new generation of “smart” hearing aids that will be more versatile and easier to use than ever before. For the 90 percent of hearing loss patients who can benefit from hearing aids, there’s no reason not to wear them.
Hearing loss isn’t just a problem in Houston; it’s a global health crisis, one that will continue to grow. Learning the truth about hearing health from a hearing professional and taking precautions to preserve your hearing will ensure you continue to enjoy the sounds around you for many years to come!
Related Hearing Loss Posts:
- Hyperacusis: When Everything Sounds Too Loud
- Allergies Can Cause Temporary Loss of Hearing
- Look at Your Ears for Clues to Your Health
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