Over 31.5 million Americans experience hearing loss, which equates to approximately 10% of the U.S. population. That number is poised to grow to over 50 million by 2030. According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic condition, after arthritis and high blood pressure.

And despite common thinking, hearing loss is not an “old age” phenomenon—we are all at risk, even children. In fact, 65% of those with hearing loss are under the age of 65.

Listen up

"With the advances in diagnostic hearing testing, as well as hearing technologies, there is no reason to miss all of the precious moments life has to offer."

The primary preventable cause of hearing loss is noise exposure, occupational and recreational. Chronic ailments such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure should all be kept in check as they have been linked to processes that accelerate hearing loss. Certain medications, including chemotherapeutic drugs, diuretics, and over-the-counter pain medications, have been shown to increase hearing loss. In addition, certain viruses and autoimmune processes can cause hearing loss.

For most, hearing loss occurs gradually over the course of a lifetime. Despite a typically gradual onset, the significant impact of hearing loss should not be underestimated. I frequently explain to my patients that if their hearing loss happened overnight, they might find themselves in the emergency room in a panic. But because it has happened over time, their brain has slowly adapted to the new “normal” of hearing loss. 

The hidden cost

Studies have linked untreated hearing loss to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression. Untreated hearing loss has also been connected with reduced job performance and decreased earning potential. Recently published studies have even demonstrated a link between untreated hearing loss and dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Despite this, there is hope. Researchers have shown that treated hearing loss, through the use of properly fit hearing aids, has resulted in positive personal, emotional, and physical well-being.

What’s more, hearing aids have changed dramatically over the years. In the past, technologies were bulky and prone to feedback. Today hearing instruments are highly sophisticated microcomputers that are available in increasingly subtle, customizable styles. In addition, modern hearing aid technologies have the ability to wirelessly receive sound from mobile phones, MP3 players, televisions, and GPS systems. This level of connectivity has never been experienced before.

If you or a loved one are experiencing hearing loss, the first step is to visit your local independent hearing professional for a full assessment and technology recommendations. With the advances in diagnostic hearing testing, as well as hearing technologies, there is no reason to miss all of the precious moments life has to offer.