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Hearing Loss Facts

Most recent available statistics show that approximately 48 million people report difficulty hearing. As the population continues to age in years, that number promises to increase dramatically.

Are you one of those millions of people who do not hear as well as they once did? If so, you are certainly not alone. Consider these statistics reported by Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Better Hearing Institute:

* 3 in 10 people over age 60 have hearing loss;

* 1 in 6 Baby Boomers have a hearing problem;

* 1 in 14 Generation Xers have hearing loss;

* At least 1.4 million children (18 or younger) have hearing problems;

* An estimated 3 in 1,000 infants are born with serious to profound hearing loss.

* It is estimated that 3 in 1,000 infants are born with serious to profound hearing loss.

In addition, studies have linked untreated hearing loss to emotional, physical, mental, psychological and even economic disadvantages. And, to make matters even worse, there are many myths about hearing loss that prevent those with an impairment from doing anything about it.

How We Hear

Hearing begins when sound waves enter the outer ear (the visible portion of the ear located on the outside of the head) and are channeled down the auditory canal, a tube-like passageway lined with tiny hairs and small glands that produce earwax.

At the end of the auditory canal lies the middle ear, which is composed of the eardrum and three small bones, known by the layman as the hammer, the anvil and the stirrup. When sound waves hit the eardrum, it vibrates and, in turn, moves the hammer. The hammer moves the anvil, which moves the stirrup, transmitting the vibrations into the inner ear. The middle ear functions to amplify sound, which is why significant hearing loss can result from a disruption in any of its parts.

The inner ear consists of the cochlea and the hearing nerve. It converts sound waves into nerve impulses that travel to the brain via the movement of tiny hair cells. It is the brain that allows you to hear…as long as the message it is receiving is not distorted due to problems in the process just described.

Types of Hearing Loss

Not all hearing loss can be corrected through the use of hearing aids or alternative listening devices. The type of hearing loss determines the specific treatment required.

There are four types of hearing loss:

Conductive
Affects the middle and outer ear. May be correctable with medication or surgery. This could be caused by something as simple as earwax buildup.

Sensorineural
Affects the inner ear. Usually irreversible, but hearing aids commonly help. This is caused when tiny hairs in the cochlea are missing or damaged.

Mixed
This is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

Central
Strokes and central nerve diseases are often the cause of this type of hearing loss.

Causes of Hearing Loss

One of the most common myths about hearing loss is that only old people suffer from it. In fact, the reverse is true. The majority (65%) of people with hearing loss are younger than 65 and six million people in the U.S. between 18 and 44 suffer from hearing loss.

The truth is, there are several causes of hearing loss with exposure to noise ranking high among them. The primary causes of hearing loss are:

* Noise Exposure

* Hereditary, Family History of Hearing Loss

* Ototoxic Medications

* Traumatic Head Injury

* Disease

* Aging Process