Hearing Loss Statistics
The American Academy of Audiology declared October as National Audiology Awareness Month in 2008, in an effort to increase public awareness of hearing health and the importance of hearing protection, as well as educating the public on the role audiologists play in hearing health care. With hearing loss already a widespread problem, and more (and younger) people being diagnosed every year, it’s a great opportunity to let the public know more about steps they can take to avoid becoming a statistic.
The numbers are sobering. Some 48 million Americans – nearly one out of every five – suffers from some degree of hearing loss. Many of us associate hearing loss with the elderly, but only one-third of patients is over the age of 65. Hearing loss affects people of all ages, including children. Understanding the important role an audiologist plays in your hearing health, and taking steps to protect your hearing now, may prove beneficial in the future.
What is an Audiologist?
An audiologist is a health care professional who evaluates, diagnoses, and treats hearing loss and balance disorders in adults and children. These clinically licensed physicians prescribe, fit, and dispense hearing aids and assistive listening devices, including cochlear implants; counsel patients and families on hearing loss and coping strategies; supervise and conduct newborn hearing screening programs; evaluate and manage children and adults with central processing disorders; implement hearing screening and conservation programs in schools and workplaces; assess and manage tinnitus; and educate the public on the prevention of hearing loss, tinnitus, and falls.
Audiologists work in a variety of clinical and non-clinic settings including hospitals, private practices, universities, schools, VA clinics, hearing aid dispensaries, and more.
Hearing Loss Causes and Prevention
Aging does contribute to an increased risk of hearing loss, and there’s little you can do to prevent this. A lifetime of cumulative noise exposure can cause permanent damage to the hair cells in your inner ear. Likewise, factors such as excessive noise exposure, head and neck trauma, viruses and diseases, ear infections, tumors, and ototoxic medications can all cause irreversible hearing loss. Hearing aids can help the majority of patients experiencing hearing loss, but obviously it’s best if you can take steps to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
Noise exposure is the leading cause of hearing loss, especially in younger people. The good news? It’s easily preventable if you follow a few simple guidelines designed to protect your hearing. By wearing earplugs any time you are going to be participating in activities with loud noise, you’ll help prevent damage to the hair cells of the cochlea. This includes attending concerts and sporting events; riding a motorcycle, boat, jet ski, or snowmobile; operating heavy machinery and other equipment; and even cutting the grass. If you’re a musician, hunter, or swimmer, there are earplugs designed specifically for those activities – they’ll give you an extra level of protection.
Other steps you can take include keeping the volume down when watching TV, listening to the radio, or using a personal listening device such as an MP3 player. Refrain from inserting cotton swabs and other objects into your ears, dry your ears thoroughly after swimming or bathing, and avoid smoking; studies show tobacco use raises the risk of hearing loss over time.
For more information on hearing loss, contact your West Chester audiologist today!