Hearing loss can happen suddenly, in one ear or both. But in most cases, it’s just the opposite. Hearing loss is so gradual that many people don’t notice it until it’s reached the point where it’s tough to ignore. In fact, statistics show the average person waits seven years before seeking help with hearing loss, but treatment can be more effective early in the process.
In fact, according to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communicative Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing. Other key statistics from the NIDCD include:
- Age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss among adults aged 20-69, with the greatest amount of hearing loss in the 60 to 69 age group. And men are almost twice as likely as women to have hearing loss among adults aged 20-69.
- One in eight people in the United States (13%, or 30 million) aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears, based on standard hearing examinations.
- Roughly 10 percent of the U.S. adult population, or about 25 million Americans, has experienced tinnitus lasting at least five minutes in the past year.
- About 28.8 million U.S. adults could benefit from using hearing aids.
- Among adults aged 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than one in three (30%) has ever used them. Even fewer adults aged 20 to 69 (approximately 16%) who could benefit from wearing hearing aids have ever used them.
Common Symptoms of Hearing Loss
Because hearing loss is such a widespread condition that can be treated, it’s important to pay attention to possible signs you are having problems hearing. Here are 10 symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.
- Even though people may be talking to you, all you hear is mumbling and it’s hard to distinguish words.
- Ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, is an early sign of hearing loss for many people.
- You frequently ask people to repeat themselves.
- Your family complains that you turn the volume up too loud on the radio, music, or TV.
- You have trouble hearing household sounds, like a doorbell or alarm clock.
- You have problems hearing on the phone and ask the caller to speak louder or put them on speaker phone.
- You have problems hearing in noisy environments, like bars, busy restaurants or parties.
- Those closest to you have noticed that you’re not hearing as well as you used to.
- You seem to speak too loudly, perhaps because you can’t hear yourself.
- Your problems hearing are interfering with your personal, family or social life.
If you’re having any of these symptoms, consider having a comprehensive hearing evaluation performed by a hearing healthcare professional, such as a doctoral-level audiologist.
An audiologist can evaluate the status of your outer ear, ear canal, and eardrum. Plus, an audiologist can provide you with comprehensive testing which may include:
- Tympanometry/Immittance testing to assess the function of your middle ear system.
- Air conduction and bone conduction threshold testing to determine the softest sounds you can hear at different frequencies. This testing also reveals the type, degree, and configuration of your hearing loss which is more in depth than a hearing screening.
- Word recognition testing to assess your ability to understand speech when the volume of the speech signal is adequate for your level of hearing.
- Otoacoustic emission testing to differentiate sensory (inner ear) from neural (nerve) hearing loss.
- Loudness discomfort testing to measure your ability to tolerate loud sounds and identify the presence of decreased sound tolerance.
- Speech in noise testing to assess your ability to understand speech when background noise is present.
Even if the audiologist determines that your hearing is within a normal range, you will now have a baseline hearing evaluation that future testing can be measured against. If the audiologist determines you have a hearing loss, they can make recommendations for the best hearing aid technology to treat your hearing loss, keeping your lifestyle and budget in mind.