If you are living with hearing loss you are not alone. Nearly 50 million people in the United States alone deal with some degree of hearing loss. Approximately one-third of U.S. citizens between the ages of 65 and 75 have some degree of hearing loss making age related hearing loss the most common type of hearing loss but even so, there are many ways to suffer hearing loss before you become at risk with age.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
There are so many beautiful sounds for your ears to hear. When someone finds a sound intolerable or the sound level reaches to a dangerous level, this is considered noise. Sounds are measured by decibels and any sound over 85 decibels can start to damage your hearing. As the decibel levels rise you become more and more at risk for sustaining irreparable damage. When sounds are too loud they can destroy the tiny hairs in your inner ear responsible for picking up sound and sending it to the brain. The most alarming part of noise induced hearing loss is that these hairs can never regenerate making this hearing loss irreversible. It is not just the level of the sound but how long and how often a person is exposed, as well as how close they are to the sound, which can determine the level of damage. It is both intense but short noises like an explosion or gunshot and repeated or continuous exposure to loud noises such as the sounds of a noisy work environment that can damage the hair cells. For this reason it is important to maintain healthy hearing practices by wearing hearing protection whenever you can predict instances where you will be exposed to harmful noise. If you are planning on operating noisy equipment for work or fun, or planning on attending a noisy event it is safe practice to always bring earplugs or earmuffs with you to protect your hearing.
Head Trauma and Hearing Loss
Those who have survived serious head injuries can often suffer negative side effects including hearing loss. These head traumas are often caused by contact sports such as football, physical altercations, or in car or bicycle accidents. The impact of these accidents can last days, weeks, and can often be permanent. Head trauma can cause traumatic brain injury, which can result in many problems specific to the ear including hearing loss, dizziness, vertigo, and tinnitus. When impact occurs head trauma can affect the auditory pathway anywhere between the outer ear and the auditory cortex in the brain. This makes diagnosing the hearing loss during head trauma challenging, as the ears are complex.
Common injuries to the ears due to head trauma include: a ruptured eardrum, damage to the small bones of the middle ear, damage to the tissues and membranes of the inner ear, disruption of blood flow to the cochlear nerve and damage to the tiny hairs of the inner ear. A ruptured eardrum can be reversed while other injuries can cause permanent damage. While head trauma can rarely be predicted there are instances where you put yourself more at risk, including while riding a bike or engaging in contact sports. Always be sure to wear a helmet and that it fits correctly to minimize your risk of traumatic brain damage leading to hearing loss.
Hearing Loss and Risk of Injury
Once you have developed irreversible hearing loss people find themselves at many disadvantages. While strain on relationships, depression, anxiety and self-isolating are common side effects of living with hearing loss you also become at a higher risk for accidents. When people struggle to hear the world around them they become less aware of potential hazards and their reaction time is slowed putting them at a higher risk for falls and impacts.
The Benefits of Treating Hearing Loss
While most cases of hearing loss are irreversible they are not untreatable. Using hearing aids can help amplify the world around you making it easier to communicate and be aware of your environment making navigating the world much safer for you with hearing loss. People using hearing aids report a greater sense of independence and higher self-esteem. While hearing loss can be scary, it is much safer to seek treatment for it, than to ignore it.