If you have recently been diagnosed with hearing loss in Arizona, you may be asking, “Why me?!” The answer to that question is a lot more difficult than, “Because your ears stopped working.” The fact is, there are many reasons why people develop hearing loss. The only thing certain is, a lot of people do – some 48 million, to be exact, making hearing loss the third most common physical condition in the U.S. That’s about 20 percent of the population! If you’re looking for a silver lining, at least know that you are not alone.
The Most Common Causes of Hearing Loss
The two most common causes of hearing loss are presbycusis and noise exposure.
Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, is the result of degeneration of the hair cells in the inner ear that occurs naturally with age. A lifetime of cumulative noise exposure takes its toll! Other factors that may contribute to presbycusis include hypertension, heart disease, vascular conditions and circulatory problems, and side effects from certain medications. Approximately one out of every three Arizonans aged 65 experiences the effects of age-related hearing loss; by 75, the number climbs to half. Presbycusis usually affects both ears equally. It is irreversible, but usually responds well to treatment with hearing aids.
Noise-induced hearing loss is nearly as widespread, and is the single most common cause of hearing loss in younger individuals. It affects an estimated 15 percent of Americans aged 20 to 69. Sounds exceeding 85 decibels (dB) are hazardous to your hearing; the louder the noise, the less safe exposure time you have before permanent damage to the hair cells in your inner ear occurs. Activities that increase your risk of noise-induced hearing loss include concerts; sporting events; motorcycles, boats, snowmobiles, and jet skis; and hunting. Like presbycusis, there is no cure for noise-induced hearing loss, but it can be prevented by wearing hearing protection in situations where loud noise is common, and keeping the volume turned down when listening to music through headphones or earbuds.
Other Reasons for Developing Hearing Loss
Aging and noise aren’t the only causes of hearing loss. Others include:
- Ear infections
- Fluid in the ears
- Malformations of the outer, middle, or inner ear
- Foreign objects
- Perforated eardrum
- Benign tumors
- Head trauma
- Viral or autoimmune diseases
- Ototoxic medications
If hearing loss is confined to the outer or middle ear, it may be reversible with surgery or drugs. Damage to the inner ear usually requires treatment with hearing aids or, in severe cases, cochlear implants. Your local Arizona audiologist will help determine the proper treatment for your hearing loss.