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Why Hearing Loss is Increasingly Common 

 March 31, 2021

By  Dr. Renee Flanagan

In recent years, numerous studies have shown that hearing loss is steadily increasing. However, in a recent study published by the World Health Organization (WHO), they estimate that one in four people will experience hearing loss by 2050.

To put that in perspective, about 2.5 billion people worldwide will suffer from hearing loss. Of those 2.5 billion, about 700 million will require access to hearing care services.

Here’s a look behind the curtain of why so many people are at risk of hearing loss and what you can do to protect yourself.

Factors Contributing to The Hearing Loss Problem

In the report, the WHO also listed several factors that contributed to the hearing loss problem. Here are a few of them:

Lack of Education

Many people don’t understand the risk of hearing loss, and therefore aren’t actively taking precautions to prevent it. This is concerning as people are exposed to more noise damage than ever before. From lawnmowers to loud music, there are many causes of noise damage that previously didn’t exist.

WHO also mentions that some ear specialists still lack the information necessary to identify and treat early hearing loss across the globe.

Financial Burden

Statistics show that most people who have hearing loss don’t seek treatment, and one of the main reasons is the financial burden.

Hearing aids and access to care providers can be costly, and most insurances do not cover hearing aids and treatment.

Few Specialists

Another reason why hearing loss remains a growing problem is that there are too few specialists  to treat it. Specifically, about 78% of low-income countries have less than one ear, nose, and throat specialist per million people. In addition, about 93% have less than one audiologist per million people.

Key Causes of Hearing Loss

One of the best ways to tackle the hearing loss problem is to promote preventative measures. Here are a few of the key causes of hearing loss.

Disease

Diseases such as meningitis and rubella are common causes of hearing loss in children and can be prevented with proper vaccination. Improving maternal care and screening newborns is also an easy way to reduce hearing damage.

Even in adults, protecting against diseases with appropriate vaccinations or maintaining overall good health and proactively preventing diseases like hypertension and diabetes is a great way to prevent or decrease the degree of hearing loss as we age.

Noise Exposure

Across the globe, people are exposed to more noise than ever before. While workplaces are becoming safer, attending loud parties, football games, using lawnmowers, hair dryers and listening to loud music are all but a few of the many potential causes of hearing loss due to noise exposure.

Medications

Another common cause of hearing loss is ototoxic medicines. These medications damage the ear (often the cochlea in the inner ear) and cause permanent hearing loss. It’s most common in older adults that are consistently on medications.

The Solution: Prevention

Despite the dismal hearing loss statistics, the good news is that most hearing loss is relatively easy to prevent. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, wearing earplugs in noisy environments and remaining aware of how loud you turn on music will dramatically reduce your risk of hearing loss.

About the author 

Dr. Renee Flanagan

Dr. Renee Flanagan is the Director of Audiological Care at HearingPlanet. She works with the training and development of Hearing Care staff so they may help the hearing impaired population by following best in class hearing healthcare practices.

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