According to the World Health Organization, (WHO) over 466 million people live with a disabling hearing loss. Whether from infectious disease, birth complications, genetics, drug use, excessive ear infections, noise, or aging, there’s a minimum of 5% of the world’s population that have hearing loss at levels greater than 40 dB (decibels).
By getting an annual hearing evaluation at the age of 55, you have a much better chance of catching hearing loss before it does any irreparable harm. For those who are younger than 55, having a baseline hearing test in early adulthood is a good start for being able to track a benchmark over several years.
Hearing loss isn’t just something that plagues aging adults. Teenagers and young adults are at risk as well from audio sources such as smartphones, earbuds and blaring speakers. The WHO estimates that approximately 1.1 billion young people damage their hearing through the unmonitored use of these devices.
These issues are being seen in younger children as well due to the advancements of technology that allow handheld devices to entertain kids. Many parents aren’t aware that parental controls can include volume and decibel settings for headphones, tablets, smartphones, and other entertainment devices.
Many people also aren’t aware that there are apps that can be downloaded onto a smartphone or tablet that tracks the decibel level of devices in the home. For those with young children and teens, these apps can help you teach your child how to maintain a safe noise level.
Even sudden bursts of loud noise such as the shriek of a siren, the boom of fireworks, and close-range gunshots can leave a lasting hearing deficit. Both sudden and permeant or short-term effects are common with these types of noise.
Repeated outings to sports events, hunting clubs, and venues catering to the nightlife are also areas where hearing should be protected due to unsafe noise levels. For adults working in noisy environments such as metalworkers, construction, factories, and the military, the risks of noise-induced hearing loss are more likely.
Hearing loss isn’t the only possible outcome of excessive noise, issues such as tinnitus can develop as well. While there is usually no truly audible sound, this has been reported as a ringing in the ears. It also can be described as:
By having a regular hearing test, these conditions can be caught and monitored. Some may even be slowed or stopped before there is permanent damage.
Among the most prevalent of chronic health issues, the loss of hearing for those ages 65 to 74 is approximately one out of every three people according to statistics by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). On top of that, more than fifty percent of people over 75 live with reduced hearing.
If left untreated, hearing loss can lead to additional issues such as:
- Anger issues
- Cognitive impairment
- Listening fatigue
- Social isolation
These issues can affect family life as well as work relationships and friendships. For those who participate in yearly hearing exams, any issues can be caught early on and these types of conditions can be avoided.
It’s common to avoid the obvious when first noticing signs of hearing loss. You might think you’re just preoccupied or simply weren’t paying attention. Other times you may decide the speaker is just a soft talker or mumble when they speak. Sadly, the average person waits about 10 years before seeking any type of hearing test from the time they first notice a problem.
On average, hearing loss happens over a long period of time. This gradual decline is often virtually unnoticeable at first. As the brain gets used to adjusting for this loss, it progresses slowly and you learn to cope with the problem, which is one reason it’s not easily detected.
Eventually, the loss becomes apparent, usually to others before it really sets in with the affected person. Starkey Hearing Technologies outlines some questions you can ask yourself or a loved one to help alert them to the fact they may have hearing loss such as:
- Is it difficult for you to follow a conversation?
- Do you need others to repeat what they say on a regular basis?
- Do others seem to mumble?
- Is it difficult for you to hear a conversation on the phone?
- Is it exhausting to listen in loud environments such as a busy office or restaurant?
By having an annual hearing test, you’ll be asked these questions regularly and if an issue is present, you’ll become aware of it sooner. This is the best way to ensure that any problems are monitored and treated before the damage can become permanent. Should a problem arise, you or a loved one can get help before secondary concerns arise such as cognitive impairment, depression, or difficulty in relationships.
Seeking early assistance of any symptoms of hearing loss can only help improve the quality of life for you or a loved one. Do yourself or a loved one a favor and schedule an annual hearing test as well as follow up on any recommendations given by your audiologist.