Every May, the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) raises awareness around hearing loss and communication disorders with Better Speech and Hearing Month. This year, ASHA’s theme is “Communication for All.” With the understanding that hearing loss affects the way all of us communicate – whether you or a loved one experiences the condition – we hope Better Speech and Hearing Month encourages you to schedule an annual hearing test, regardless of your hearing abilities.
Understanding the Prevalence of Hearing Loss
There’s a good chance that someone you know experiences a hearing loss. In the United States, an estimated 48 million Americans (20%) experience some degree of hearing loss. Approximately one in three older Americans (ages 65 and over) experience hearing loss, while for school-aged children, the statistic is 30 out of every 1000.
Based on data from federal surveys, the number of Americans (age 3 and older) living with hearing loss has doubled in 30 years, between 1971 and 2000. Statistics show that an estimated 1 to 6 out of 1000 infants are born with congenital hearing loss, while some may congenital hearing loss may not occur until later in childhood.
As for adults, sudden sensorineural hearing loss occurs within 5 to 20 cases out of 1000, while noise exposure is the most common risk factor, with 30 million Americans exposed on a daily basis to dangerously high sound levels. Approximately 60% of the American workforce experiences some degree of hearing loss.
As the third most common medical condition in the US, after arthritis and heart disease, people from all walks of life may struggle with the difficulties of hearing loss.
What are the Types and Causes of Hearing Loss?
As a subjective condition, hearing loss appears in different degrees and configurations for everyone affected by it. There are three types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss is localized to the outer and middle ear structures. Conductive hearing loss might occur due to congenital malformations of the ear canal and middle ear structures or head trauma, infections, tumors, impacted earwax, or other medical conditions.
Sensorineural hearing loss refers to problems with the inner ear structure, the ear cells, and the process by which sound waves are transformed into electric signals sent to the brain. Exposure to loud noise, aging, head trauma, and Meniere’s disease are all related to sensorineural hearing loss.
Mixed hearing loss is the combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing losses, in which different elements of the auditory system (outer, middle, and inner ear) are damaged or affected by any combination of the above conditions.
Hearing loss ranges in degrees of severity, from slight to profound. People with mild hearing loss might not be able to hear a whisper or the buzz of a mosquito, while those who suffer from moderate to severe hearing loss will struggle to hear a conversation in a busy space, a TV set at high volume, or a doorbell. Profound hearing loss prevents people from hearing most musical instruments, and the shout of a human voice, to name a few.
The Importance of Annual Hearing Tests
Regardless of your age, an annual hearing test is an important part of every health care regimen. In the same way people get their eyes tested or go in for an annual physical, hearing tests are a crucial part of your overall well-being.
Untreated hearing loss has many negative consequences that may not even be obviously linked to hearing loss. People may find themselves struggling with conversations, such as mishearing sentences. Over time, people with untreated hearing loss isolate themselves from their communities because difficulties with speech recognition create a barrier to socializing. It should come as no surprise that people with untreated hearing loss are at risk for developing depression, anxiety, and stress. In the workplace, untreated hearing loss interferes with productivity and communication. Studies have found that people with untreated hearing loss have lower earning power than their colleagues with normal hearing and colleagues who treat their hearing loss with hearing aids.
The first step to treating hearing loss is taking a hearing test. It is recommended for people over the age of 50 to schedule an annual hearing test – but it doesn’t hurt to make it a practice before you turn 50! Furthermore, people who currently treat their hearing loss with hearing aids should check in once a year to make sure their devices are still current.
Visit Us at Hearing Consultants
Our team at Hearing Consultants is experienced in providing comprehensive hearing tests and hearing aid fittings. In honor of Better Speech and Hearing Month, get your hearing tested with us by scheduling an appointment.