Hearing loss is often described as the hidden disability. People can’t see it and therefore tend not to look for the signs of it. As a society we pay little attention to it yet it is one of the most common disabilities out there. Here are some of the facts about hearing loss.
With a world population approaching 7.5 billion, it is estimated that 11% have some form of hearing loss. That equates to a staggering figure of 850 million people worldwide who have some form of hearing impairment.
What are the main causes of hearing loss.
A severe infection can cause damage to the hearing system. Our hearing system is a very delicate and finely balanced operation The small hairs in the inner ear that pick up sound and send them to the brain are easily damaged.
A lot of research is still needed in this area to try and understand what causes hearing loss at birth. Most people think that babies born deaf have deaf parents. The facts are very different. Over 90% of deaf babies are born to hearing parents.
The aging process.
This is by far the most common area to find hearing loss. Approximately between 30 – 40% of people over the age of 65 have some form of hearing loss. With an increasingly aging population, this problem is only set to get worse.
Head or ear injuries.
This seems like a pretty simple one. If you receive a trauma to the head or ear then the signals that flow from one to the other can be disrupted. However very few people are actually checked for signs of hearing loss after head trauma injury.
Ototoxic reactions to drugs.
There are a range of drugs or medications that are ototoxic, meaning they are particularly toxic to the hearing system. They are commonly found in treatments such as chemotherapy for cancer.
Exposure to excessive noise.
This is one of the most preventative causes of hearing loss but also one of the most ignored. Exposure to loud sounds even over a relatively short period of time can cause permanent damage to our ears. Read “How to prevent hearing loss” here.
Some of the above causes we can do very little about. We all age and with aging the body begins to degenerate. The ears are unfortunately one of the things commonly affected by this.
Some of the other causes can be treated if caught early. If you have had a severe viral infection, a head trauma, been treated with chemotherapy or been exposed to loud noise then it is imperative that you get your hearing checked. The sooner you are diagnosed with a hearing loss the better the treatments can be.
Noise. The preventative hearing loss.
Despite the warnings, people continue to expose themselves to excessive noise levels. It seems people simply don’t believe how quickly their hearing can be damaged by loud music or industrial noise.
Millions of people use subways to commute to work. Very few of them would think for even a minute that the noise they are subject to could damage their hearing.
Most people would probably agree that listening to loud music over a prolonged period of time can damage our hearing. The misconception is the length of time it takes for this to happen. If the Db (decibel) level is high enough, damage can happen in a matter of minutes.
The effect of hearing loss on children.
Hearing loss is still generally thought of as an “old peoples” problem. This is simply not the case. There are more 6 – 9 year olds with some form of hearing loss than there are people aged 45 – 64.
Undiagnosed hearing loss in children can have a devastating effect on their whole lives. A child with even a mild hearing loss can miss as much as 50% of a classroom discussion.
Any child missing out to this level is going to have other problems. If a child can’t hear what is being said in class then they can’t answer questions. They can’t partake in normal school activities and they tend to withdraw into themselves. This can lead to further difficulties which can have a snowball effect on a childs whole education experience. Read “hearing loss and children” here.
Diagnosing hearing loss.
The lack of routine screening for hearing loss means that millions continue to suffer this condition in silence. It is generally recommended that people have their eyes tested every two years. This should be the same for peoples hearing.
I would go further and say that all children should have their hearing checked every year. The sooner a child has a hearing loss detected then the less disruption there will be to their lives.
With only 16% of doctors routinely screening for hearing loss we are never going to get on top of this problem. The governing bodies and indeed governments need to come up with a plan so that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.
We, as individuals also need to be more aware of our hearing health. People are waiting on average 7 years before seeking help for their hearing loss. That is 7 years where their quality of life has been much less than it could have been.
The facts about hearing loss summary.
Some of the facts outlined above will shock some people. Some will find the sheer numbers of hearing loss people worldwide staggering. Some will be shocked at how quickly noise can affect your hearing.
Others will be shocked to know that there are no screening programmes for children in most of the so called developed world. Yet more will find it hard to believe that people wait for 7 years before seeking help.
Whatever shocks you about the facts, the hope is that articles such as this will make people sit up and take notice.
Do you get your hearing checked regularly? Do you get your children’s hearing checked regularly. You can get a free online hearing test below.
Hearing is one of the senses that gives us our quality of life. Don’t be one of the facts I have outlined above. Take care of your hearing health and have a routine test on a regular basis.