Prevelance of Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss...A Legitimate Problem

By Dr. Brandi R. Shepard

Currently, hearing loss is the 3rd most common health problem in the United States and affects more than 36 million Americans.1 The two most prevalent reasons for hearing loss that I see are the aging process and noise exposure. Several other reasons for hearing loss that I have seen are disorders of the ear, illness, ototoxicity, or hereditary.

Hearing loss caused from aging or being around too much or too loud of noise is classified as sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is a type of hearing loss that is commonly referred to as nerve damage. When the hearing loss occurs, typically the structures in the inner ear progressively degenerate and/or the auditory nerve's integrity is compromised. Because the structure of the system is compromised there is no medication or surgical procedure that can "fix" the hearing loss therefore this is a permanent hearing loss.

It is common for people to not realize that they have a hearing loss because it is usually a gradual progression. Most people will not complain that they are having problems hearing, but that their spouse, kids, or coworkers "mumble", don't speak up, or talk and look away. Because this hearing loss did not happen overnight it is harder for the individual to realize that they are not hearing within normal limits anymore. Despite the perception of the individual with hearing loss, people close to them usually know the individual is not hearing within normal limits. Asking people to repeat or responding inappropriately to them can be frustrating and/or embarrassing and generally I see the patient start to exhibit some form(s) of self isolation.

Of course, background noise is an irritant to a person with a hearing loss and only seems to compound the understanding process. Because the hearing system is compromised it can't perform well in these situations. It is impossible for a person to block out what they don't want to hear and only concentrate on what they do want to hear. My patient's describe this situation as, "I hear, but I don't understand."

Hearing loss is a legitimate problem that should be diagnosed by a Doctor of Audiology. Annual hearing evaluations are a very important step in your hearing health. I would encourage you to schedule an appointment with your Doctor of Audiology at HearAid, (719) 544-3828, if you have any hearing concerns.


1. References can be found online at www.audiology.org (August 2009). http://www.audiology.org/practice/resources/Pages/FAQnoiseinducedhearingloss.aspx