While hearing loss is one of the most common health conditions in the world, it is still incredibly misunderstood, misrepresented, and far too often, untreated. In order to better understand your own hearing health or the ears of a loved one, we pulled five quick, yet key, facts about the condition that are often undiscussed.
Just how common is hearing loss?
For cases that can be counted, it’s believed 360 million people worldwide have hearing loss – according to the World Health Organization, and over 5% of the world’s population (360 million) have disabling hearing loss. Even more surprising is the fact that over half of those people are aged under 65. That’s right – hearing loss is not just your grandmother’s problem, as more and more children are developing hearing-related issues very early in life. However, it’s impossible to know just how many undocumented cases exist, as it’s become a rampant issue in developing countries that don’t have the resources to diagnose, document, or treat ill ears properly.
Hearing loss can be instant
It’s often believed that hearing loss is slowly developed over a lifetime of loud music and aging eardrums. However, sometimes the condition is instant. Just eight hours of exposure to 90 decibels or more can cause damage to your hearing, and anything over 140 decibels causes immediate damage. Some careers are more inclined than others – those who work with loud machinery, in the military, or in the music industry are often the most at risk of immediate ear damage.
Ears are critical to overall health
Many people would never guess that those little curved things sticking out the side of our heads would have such an impact on what goes on inside us. But it’s true – research now shows a strong link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. According to several studies out of Johns Hopkins University, unhealthy ears can also contribute to impaired memory and increase a person’s risk of developing dementia.
Hearing loss can affect balance
This seems like a strange one, but hearing loss actually raises a person’s risk of falling. According to a recent study, people with mild hearing loss were three times more likely to have a history of falling as compared to those with normal hearing. And the likelihood of falling increases as hearing loss becomes more severe. This becomes especially worrisome in older patients whose falls are often more detrimental, and their ability to recover quickly is impaired.
Hearing loss is linked to Tinnitus
Tinnitus – an extremely common condition that manifests itself as internal ringing in one’s ears and head – is another under-considered, misunderstood condition that seems to affect people with perfectly healthy, normal ears. However, studies now show that hearing loss is present in 90% of Tinnitus cases. While it may seem tricky to address and diagnose, there is a bright side – this finding means both conditions can potentially be addressed with hearing aids.