The American Academy of Audiology has designated October as National Audiology Awareness Month. It’s an opportunity to raise public awareness of audiology and the importance of hearing protection in Tucson and across the country—necessary first steps toward reducing the number of patients suffering from impaired hearing.
Hearing Loss is a Global Epidemic
How many Americans have hearing loss?
An estimated 48 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, making it the third most common physical condition in the U.S. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 900 million people around the world—about 10 percent of the population—will have disabling hearing loss by the year 2050, making it a global health epidemic. Increased awareness is key to finding solutions.
Hearing Loss Statistics for the United States
Here are some facts about hearing loss in Arizona and the rest of the United States.
- Approximately one in every five Americans suffers from hearing loss to some degree.
- Hearing loss affects people of all ages, not just older individuals. Only one-third of hearing loss patients are 65 or older.
- Hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition, behind arthritis and heart disease.
- Sensorineural hearing loss, or nerve deafness, affects the inner ear. Nine out of ten people with a hearing impairment suffer from this type. Damage to the inner ear is permanent, but the majority of patients are able to benefit from hearing aids.
- Conductive hearing loss affects the outer or middle ear (and sometimes both). This type is often reversible through surgery or medications. It’s relatively rare; only about 10 percent of hearing loss patients suffer from this type.
- The most common causes of hearing loss are noise and aging. Both occur as a result of damage to the hair cells in the inner ear that convert sound to electrical impulses. Other causes include disease, head and neck trauma, hereditary factors and medications.
- By the age of 65, hearing loss affects one-third of adults. At age 75, around half experience hearing loss to some degree.
- 2-3 out of every 1,000 babies are born with hearing loss. The majority of hospitals provide newborn hearing screenings in order to detect problems immediately following birth. Early intervention is crucial; children with hearing loss suffer from delayed speech-language skills and poor social and academic development.
- 85 decibels (dB) is the safety threshold for noise. The louder the sound, the less safe exposure time you have before damage occurs. Permanent hearing loss occurs after eight hours of exposure to noise measuring 85 dB, but at 100 dB, safe exposure time is cut to 15 minutes.
- Hearing loss usually develops gradually, making it difficult for many people to realize they have a problem. It takes seven years, on average, from the onset of hearing loss for people to seek medical treatment. The brain fills in the missing gaps by diverting resources from other important cognitive functions to assist in the hearing process, increasing the risk of social, psychological and physical health effects.
- Noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented. Wearing earplugs and other types of hearing protection whenever you are exposed to sounds exceeding 85 dB will significantly lower your odds of developing a hearing impairment.
Your Tucson audiologist recommends regular hearing screenings to establish a baseline and detect any changes to your hearing over time. For more information, make an appointment today.