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Hearing Loss Can Sneak Up on You

Kari Mobley, AuD, ACMC-Willmar, Audiology

Hearing loss can affect anyone from birth to those in their golden years. While hearing loss as you age is more common, it can sneak up on you at any age.

Sounds are vibrations that travel through the ear canal to an eardrum. From the eardrum, vibrations travel by the middle ear bones and stimulate the cochlea, our hearing organ, which transmits the message to the brain. When your cochlea is exposed to too much noise, the hair cells, which are responsible for picking up different sounds, may be bent or stop responding. When this damage occurs, your hearing and understanding is affected.

The National Institutes of Health estimates that one-third of people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 75 and nearly one-half of those older than 75 have some degree of hearing loss. But hearing loss doesn't just happen to older populations. In fact, hearing loss affects nearly 15 percent of children. Additionally, approximately 15 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to noise exposure.

Heredity and chronic noise exposure are two of the biggest factors that can contribute to hearing loss over time although other factors like health status can also affect your hearing. In west central and southwestern Minnesota, hearing loss tends to be a result of noise exposure. Two of the biggest culprits of loud noise exposure in Minnesota are from shot gun use for hunting and target practicing and loud equipment.

Unfortunately, you can't reverse hearing loss, but you can recognize the signs of hearing loss and get help to improve your quality of living.

What are the Signs of Hearing Loss?

There are a number of common signs of hearing loss. Typically when someone has hearing loss, they will withdraw from, or become anxious about, things they previously enjoyed. They may also be exhausted at the end of the day from trying to listen or will misunderstand people in conversations. Other signs include:

  • Muffled speech and sounds
  • Thinking it sounds like everyone is mumbling
  • Having a hard time understanding words especially with background noise or in a crowd of people
  • Asking others to repeat themselves
  • Withdrawal from social situations.
  • Turning up the volume of the television or radio louder than other family members to hear

The good news is that you can address hearing loss. If you think you may have problems hearing, don't wait to get treatment. Schedule an appointment with your provider to test your hearing and to make a plan to get your hearing back on track.