Hearing loss affects over 460 million people around the globe. In the United States, 15% of adults have some hearing issues. While it’s common for older people to experience hearing loss, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports hearing loss affecting children is preventable in 60% of reported cases.
Understanding the common causes of hearing loss can help people understand how to protect their hearing and prevent further hearing loss from occurring in the future.
Hearing Loss From Aging
Age-related hearing loss is one of the most common reasons people can’t hear. One of the reasons people experience hearing loss as they age is due to increased exposure to other hearing loss causes. People are more likely to have had medical issues, injuries, or exposure to smoke, which can all cause hearing loss. People also lose their ability to hear because of the changes in the inner ear as they age.
Hearing Loss From Medical Issues
Conductive hearing loss is caused by a blockage that prevents sound from reaching the inner ear. There are several potential causes of this blockage — the ear may be deformed, its structure may block sound, ear wax can build up and prevent sound from traveling to the inner ear, or a build-up of fluid can cause conductive hearing issues. In some cases, conductive hearing loss can be restored by removing the obstruction.
Several other medical conditions, such as measles, mumps, Ménière’s disease, stroke, hypertension, and meningitis, can lead to hearing loss.
Hearing Loss From Accidents
It’s possible to suffer from hearing loss following head trauma. Trauma from a fall or blow to the head can lead to short-term or permanent hearing loss. Car accidents, workplace injuries, and accidents in your home or community can also result in hearing issues.
Hearing Loss From Exposure
One of the most common causes of preventable hearing damage is exposure to loud noises. Being near a gun when it’s fired, working with loud tools without protective equipment, or listening to loud music can all cause permanent hearing damage.
Taking ototoxic drugs can also damage your hearing. Ototoxic drugs include streptomycin and some ingredients used in chemotherapy treatments.
Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke can also lead to hearing issues.
How do you prevent hearing loss?
Workplaces can prevent hearing loss by ensuring employees have access to protective equipment, such as industrial earplugs or earmuffs. Individuals can also wear noise-canceling headphones to protect their ears from loud noises.
Companies can also install state-of-the-art equipment. When it’s time to replace your grinding machine, turn to whirl machines that are more environmentally friendly and include safety features designed to protect staff from workplace injuries. Whirling machines are also more affordable to operate, allowing your business to invest in safety equipment to protect them from workplace injuries and exposure that can lead to hearing damage.
Individuals who use shooting ranges can protect their hearing by wearing earmuffs whereas those listening to loud music can protect their hearing by keeping the volume at a moderate level when listening to music in their car or on headphones.
Using Q-tips can cause earwax to build up in your ears, which can also cause conductive hearing loss. Many people use items to clean their ears that actually push wax deeper into the ear canal. Instead, you can use an eyedropper to insert mineral oil or hydrogen peroxide into your ear to soften the earwax. Wait a few days and flush your ear with warm water to remove the earwax.
Earwax buildup can be caused by using earbuds and headphones. Try to avoid overuse of earbuds and headphones and ensure your hearing aids are cleaned regularly to prevent excessive or impacted earwax.
Take steps to reduce your exposure to things that contribute to hearing loss. You can stop smoking, distance yourself from others when they’re smoking, and wear noise-canceling headphones when you’re near people or equipment making loud noises.
Suppose you’re wondering how to make a difference in your community and help prevent hearing damage. In that case, you may be able to help other people protect their hearing with community notices about construction and street work that can produce loud sounds. Advance notices can ensure residents have an opportunity to leave the area or purchase earplugs to protect their hearing. You may also distribute earplugs to elderly neighbors or offer to take them out for the day to reduce their exposure to loud noises.
You can also make a difference in your community by assisting individuals who have hearing issues. Learning ASL is one way to ensure people you can communicate with all the people in your community. You can also help individuals who are adjusting to hearing loss by facing them when you speak so they can read your lips.
Another way to help your community is to promote awareness about the preventable causes of hearing loss. Create a campaign to educate workplaces on common causes of hearing loss and the steps they can take to create a safe work environment where an employee’s hearing is protected.
Treating Hearing Loss
Do an online search of “hearing doctors near me” to find an audiologist in your area. Audiologists are medical doctors who specialize in treating hearing issues. They’re qualified to assess your hearing, perform diagnostic tests, and identify the source of any hearing issues. Your audiologist can also determine a course of treatment and teach you how to prevent future hearing loss.
Audiologists can clean your ear to remove impacted earwax if earwax is causing hearing issues. If you’re uncomfortable removing earwax on your own or want to learn the proper way to remove wax buildup, an audiologist can guide you through the process.
Audiologists can prescribe hearing aids and help you learn how to use them properly. They will also ensure your hearing aids fit properly.
Addressing Legal Issues
If you experienced hearing issues due to an accident or exposure, you might have cause for legal action. Talk to a personal injury attorney to gain personal injury insight about your case and learn about your legal options. Consultations are free, and personal injury attorneys have the expert knowledge to assess your potential claim.
Many forms of hearing loss are permanent and can affect your ability to communicate and participate in routine activities. You may need to change your career, learn sign language, invest in treatment and devices, such as hearing aids. A personal injury attorney can also help you navigate the process of filing for disability if you suffer severe hearing loss due to an accident.
Addressing Life Changes
In some cases, hearing loss may be severe and permanent. If you’re experiencing this type of hearing loss you may benefit from seeing an audiologist to learn about other communication options.
You may need to learn American Sign Language (ASL) or learn how to lip read. Your family may also need to learn how to communicate with you after your hearing loss. An audiologist can provide insight into non-hearing communication options.
You may need to make changes in your physical environment to adjust to your hearing challenges such as using sunrise alarm clocks that light up when your alarm goes off. This is a visual cue that can be used to wake you if you can’t hear your alarm. Several companies also sell doorbells that are designed for people who are deaf. These alarms can be connected to your mobile device and other devices, such as Alexa. Some alarms use lights and vibrations as well.