An estimated 48 million Americans suffer from some form of hearing loss—the vast majority of them older adults. Almost one-third of people ages 65 to 74 report difficulty hearing, and the number rises to about half by age 75, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
Evidence is mounting that untreated hearing loss is a significant national health concern, and studies have linked it with other serious health problems, including depression, a decline in memory and concentration, and perhaps even dementia.
Causes of Hearing Loss
The most common type of hearing loss, called sensorineural, often stems from damage to the tiny hair cells that line the inner ear. These cells convert incoming sound waves into electrical signals that are then shuttled to the brain. The brain interprets the signals as meaningful sounds.
Aging and chronic exposure to loud noises are the most common causes of damage, but certain medications, illnesses, and a family history of hearing loss can also increase your risk.
Although sensorineural hearing loss is often not reversible, it can be managed with hearing aids, which selectively amplify sounds. Cases of severe hearing loss or hearing loss in only one ear can be managed with cochlear implants, which electrically stimulate the auditory nerve by bypassing the damaged portions of the hearing system.
Conductive Hearing Loss
This is less common and often occurs as a result of a physical blockage or malformation in the middle or outer ear. Impacted earwax, fluid buildup in the middle ear from an infection, and certain disorders can block sound from reaching the inner ear and brain.
Removing the wax buildup in the outer ear, treating infections in the middle ear, and, in the case of malformations, having corrective surgery typically restore hearing. If not, a hearing aid may be used.
Older adults sometimes have a mix of both types of loss. For example, age-related hearing loss plus wax in the middle ear can interfere with sound conduction to the inner ear.
Read Full Article HERE | CONSUMER REPORTS | January, 2019