Who’s affected by hearing loss?
- Approximately 38 million Americans of all ages have a hearing impairment.
- About one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has a hearing loss.
- An estimated 15% of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have a high-frequency hearing loss due to exposure to noise.
- As many as 16% of teens (ages 12 to 19) have reported some hearing loss that could have been caused by loud noise.
Possible causes include:
- The aging process (presbycusis)
- Exposure to loud noise
- Head or ear trauma
- Certain medications
- Common childhood infections, such as mumps
- A variety of diseases and disorders, including ear infections and bacterial or fungal meningitis
- High blood pressure
- Chemotherapy and radiation
- Congenital or hereditary factors
Most hearing losses are “sensorineural,” indicating damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or to the nerve pathways that lead from the inner ear to the brain. The good news is, nearly 95% of people with a sensorineural loss can be helped with hearing aids. Less common is conductive hearing loss, which involves damage to the middle or external ear structures and is often treated surgically or with medication.
Can hearing loss be prevented?
Exposure to excessive noise is one of the leading causes of hearing loss. It’s also the most preventable, thanks to earplugs and other hearing protection products. Be sure to wear hearing protection anytime you’re exposed to noise at or above 85 decibels. Common sources of damaging noise include lawn mowers and other power equipment, MP3 players, guns, fireworks, motorcycles, ATVs, sporting events and concerts.
Other information resources
We encourage you to check out the following websites for additional detail about hearing loss, hearing aids and related topics:
American Academy of Audiology — “How’s Your Hearing?” consumer site
American Hearing Research Foundation — Information on hearing and balance disorders
American Tinnitus Association — Information about tinnitus and how to manage it
Better Hearing Institute — Information about hearing loss and hearing aids
Hearing Loss Association of America — Advocating for people with hearing loss