Contrary to popular belief, hearing loss isn’t just an issue that plagues the senior folk in our population. While hearing loss is certainly quite prevalent among older adults, it is also a fairly common issue among young adults, people in middle-age, and even children. Here’s what you need to know:
As most of us know, hearing loss is a major health concern in older adults. Often, hearing loss in older folk is sensorineural, which means it’s caused by damage to the inner ear’s delicate sound-transmitting hair cells. This damage is often linked to exposure to loud noises over time, though there are other causes.
Hearing loss is so prevalent in older adults that approximately 2 out of 3 adults over 70 and 4 out of 5 adults over 80 suffer from some form of the condition. But, while people over 65 are five times more likely to have hearing loss than those under 65, the younger populations are certainly at risk.
Recent statistics show that nearly 750 million adults, aged 18+ have some form of hearing loss while over half a billion people under the age of 65 already have difficulty hearing. These numbers stand to only get worse as over one billion young people around the world are at risk of hearing loss, often due to exposure to loud noises at work or at sporting and/or music events.
While human hearing is generally at its best between ages 18-25, everyone is at risk of hearing loss. Even young children can have hearing loss, which can be either congenital or acquired.
Hearing loss in any person is nothing to scoff at, but for younger people, it’s particularly concerning. Middle-aged people and young adults often allow hearing loss to go untreated due to stigma and an unwillingness to accept their condition. In fact, hearing loss goes untreated in about 85% of people who have it.
For adults, hearing loss can cause a whole host of issues. Since organs in our ears play a big role in our balance, untreated hearing loss can increase one’s risk of falls and vertigo. Plus, untreated hearing loss is linked to a decline in heart health and cognitive function.
Untreated hearing loss in younger children is even more of a concern as it can have a drastic effect on one’s ability to acquire language and perform in an academic environment. If a child has undiagnosed or untreated hearing loss, it can cause problems for them in a learning environment which may prohibit their ability to learn and grow cognitively during their most formative years.
While everyone’s hearing loss is different, it’s important that we understand that hearing loss isn’t just a problem for the elderly. Everyone, from newborns to seniors can experience hearing loss, which, if left undetected and untreated, can cause serious long-term problems.
If you’re concerned about your hearing or about that of a loved one, the best first step is to consult a hearing healthcare professional who can offer customized and specific guidance for the diagnostic and treatment processes.