Can You Hear Me?
Hearing loss in on the rise among young adults and carries more risk than you might think. What can we do about it?
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Most people associate hearing loss with old age, but hearing loss can start at any time. (In Tom’s case, it seems to have started right about the time we got married. Kidding! Sort of…). With today’s noisy, urban environments and onslaught of technology constantly buzzing in our ears, hearing loss is coming for people sooner than ever.
According to the World Health Organization, “over 1 billion young adults are at risk of permanent, avoidable hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices.” Yikes! The WHO estimates that by 2050, nearly 2.5 billion people are projected to have some degree of hearing loss, and at least 700 million will require hearing rehabilitation.
Construction workers, factory and manufacturing workers, military personnel, musicians and entertainment industry professionals, and airport and ground crew workers are the most susceptible to hearing loss. However, the overuse of headphones and cellphones is a major contributor to the issue and seems to be leveling the playing field to include those who don’t necessarily work in a noisy environment.
Hearing loss comes with risks, including walking problems, frequent falls, and even dementia. Hearing loss can increase the risk of developing dementia because when the brain struggles to process sounds properly, it can lead to cognitive decline and the loss of brain function over time. According to The Lancet Commission on Dementia, hearing loss is estimated to account for 8% of dementia cases. This means that hearing loss may be responsible for 800,000 of the nearly 10 million new cases of dementia diagnosed each year.
Allison gives new meaning to the word earring. Photo by Tom.
There are two types of hearing loss: Sensorineural Hearing Loss and Conductive Hearing Loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear or the nerve pathways that transmit sound signals to the brain, resulting in difficulty in hearing and understanding speech. This type of hearing loss is typically permanent and cannot be medically or surgically corrected.
Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a blockage or damage to the outer or middle ear, which hinders the transmission of sound waves to the inner ear and results in diminished hearing. This type of hearing loss is often treatable and can be resolved through medical interventions or procedures.
(I would argue there is a third type, selective hearing loss, which is what Tom suffers from.)
So what can we do?
Here are 4 tips on preventing hearing loss:
1. Protect your ears from loud noises: Exposure to loud noises can damage the delicate structures of the inner ear and lead to hearing loss. To prevent this, it is important to wear ear protection such as earplugs, noise cancelling headphones, or earmuffs in noisy environments.
2. Limit your use of headphones: Prolonged and high-volume use of headphones or earbuds can contribute to hearing loss. To prevent this, try to limit your use of headphones and keep the volume at a safe level.
3. Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes can increase the risk of hearing loss. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, a balanced diet, and managing chronic conditions, you can lower your risk of hearing loss.
4. Get hearing check-ups: Regular hearing evaluations by a qualified audiologist can help identify any early signs of hearing loss. Early detection is key in managing and preventing further damage. At around the age of 50 years old is when people should schedule a hearing test.
Here are relevant articles on hearing loss:
This Forbes article provides in-depth tips on preventing hearing loss.
Here are CNETS best ear plugs for 2023.
And here is a very fun, illustrated NPR article explaining how to protect hearing and ears from potential damage.
Until next week, Age and Prosper!