10 Facts about Hearing Loss

Janet Siroto
March 13, 2018

If your ears seem less capable lately, read these stats — and how to regain richer sound.

Uh-oh, it’s happening. You find yourself choosing staid restaurants over super-trendy, super-noisy ones. You ask people to talk a bit louder…multiple times. You find cell-phone calls challenging to hear, even with the volume turned up to 11.

Guess what? You’re human. Hearing usually gets less acute with time, and the auditory assaults of modern life can accelerate the process. Here are 10 facts to know now:

  1. 48 million Americans have some hearing loss. That works out to 1 in 14 Gen Xers, 1 in 6 Baby Boomers, and 1 in 3 people over age 60.
  2. 15 million of those with hearing loss avoid seeking help.
  3. Those who do seek help typically wait 7 years before doing so.
  4. Hearing loss is the third most common chronic condition in older Americans, following heart disease and arthritis.
  5. Tiny hair cells in your inner ear are nerve endings that transfer sound into electric signals; these minuscule structures can be damaged by loud sounds.
  6. Listening to music at level 5 or above on your phone with earbuds or being exposed to a noisy subway for just 15 minutes per day can cause long-term hearing damage over time.
  7. Hearing loss can also reflect noisy work conditions: 44% of carpenters and 48% of plumbers report this issue.
  8. Inner-ear changes that occur with aging lead to a slow but steady loss of hearing.
  9. One of the early signs of hearing loss is trouble decoding women’s and children’s voices, and detecting the sounds “S” and “F.”
  10. Only 1 in 5 people who need hearing assistance use hearing aids, possibly due to their high cost and performance issues – and sometimes just the sentiment, “I’m too young for hearing aids!”

If you feel as if your hearing is not as good as it used to be—talking with more than one person at a time is a challenge, or you misunderstand people’s comments—check with your doctor. The culprit could involve a relatively quick fix – a medication you are taking or wax in your ears could be to blame.

But if you do have hearing loss that’s not so easily remedied, know that you have options – and more of them every day.  It’s not just about gizmos to stick in your ears. Technology is making inroads that can notably improve your hearing. There are personal listening systems that help people watch TV without blasting the volume, and apps to enhance cellphone sound for easier conversations—just two of the tools that can open a world of sound. 

Sources: Hearing Loss Association of America, Center for Hearing and Communication, Medlineplus.gov, and WedMD