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Hearing Loss Is One of the Most Common Chronic Conditions in the US

Hearing loss affects more than 40 million people of all ages. People of all ages can have hearing loss of some degree in one or both ears. Here is everything you need to know about hearing loss.

child whispering to adult

Signs of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss usually occurs slowly, so you may not perceive it at first. There are some common signs of hearing loss to check for:

  • You watch TV louder than your family does.
  • It’s hard to follow conversations in bars and restaurants.
  • You find it tough to hear on the phone.
  • You ask others to repeat themselves often.
  • It seems like everyone around you is mumbling.

If these situations are common in your everyday life, you may have hearing loss. The best way to find out is to have a hearing test.

Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is the result of sound stimuli not reaching the brain for some reason. There are two main types of hearing loss, depending on the root of the problem. You can also have both types simultaneously. This is called mixed hearing loss. The most common hearing loss we see is the sensorineural type. Unfortunately, this is also the most serious one.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Due to damage to the inside of the inner ear of the hair cells or damage to the hearing nerve. It affects the ability to hear soft sounds and lowers the quality of the sound you hear. It’s also unable to be cured by medical or scientific means.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Occurs when sound cannot move from either your outer ear or middle ear to your inner ear, possibly due to an obstruction such as cerumen, commonly referred to as earwax. Middle ear infections in both adults and children is another cause of conductive hearing loss.  Because of either cerumen or middle ear infections, sounds are quieter and sometimes can even be muffled.  This hearing loss, most of the time, is temporary.

Causes of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

There are two main causes of sensorineural hearing loss, age-related and noise-induced.


Age-related hearing loss is mainly caused by gradual wear and tear on the small sensory cells in the cochlea (your internal hearing organ), which can also be associated with genetic factors. Presbycusis the medical term for age-related hearing loss.


Chronic exposure to excessive noise–e.g. in noisy working environments or during listening to loud music –triggers noise-induced hearing loss. It can also be caused by excessively loud noise blasts, including gunshots or explosions, which can physically damage the ear structures. More commonly however, noise-induced hearing loss leads to a slow erosion of your hair cells, and you might not realize the symptoms until years after the initial exposure.

Benefits of Treating Hearing Loss

Treating your hearing loss leads to benefits for many aspects of your life, not just your hearing.

Addressing and treating your hearing loss can bring tremendous benefits to your relationships. By treating your hearing loss, you will be able to recognize and understand consonant sounds that give you the clarity of speech. These consonant sounds include the th, t, sh, s, ch, c, f, v to name a few, which are usually the beginning and ending of words. When you can’t hear the beginning and ending of words, you hear the speech but you just can’t understand the speech. Partners also benefit as they are no longer required to continually repeat themselves. Strengthening bonds with family members, friends, and acquaintances will reduce the risk of anxiety, stress, and even depression.

Although the reasons are as yet unclear, studies show that hearing loss is twice as common in people who have diabetes. A recent study also discovered that people with elevated blood pressure were more likely to have hearing loss. This is due to damaged blood vessels which can affect the blood flow to structures within the ear. Smoking, obesity, osteoporosis, tinnitus, isolation, and balance problems all can have a direct effect on your hearing health.

Cognitive decline has also been linked to hearing loss. Research has shown that untreated hearing loss, no matter the severity, affects the brain. Studies conducted at both the Mayo Clinic as well as Johns Hopkins has found the brain can actually atrophy (shrink) if hearing loss goes untreated.

In order to progress in today’s workplace, you need to have great communication skills. This explains why those with untreated hearing loss often earn less than their hearing peers, according to the Better Hearing Center. This disadvantage is mitigated almost completely through the use of hearing aids.

You could also be risking higher medical costs with untreated hearing loss. The total costs of health care for older adults with hearing impairments are substantially higher than for those without. A new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health indicates that $22,434 more per hearing loss patient is paid over a ten-year period.

There are many benefits to treating your hearing loss. But only a small fraction of those with hearing loss actually do something about it. If you are one of those that are not doing something about it, you should hear what you are missing. The first step is to set up a hearing test with Dr. Gessert.

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