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Myth: Hearing loss is unavoidable with age.
Hearing loss has many causes, including genetics, certain medications, and exposure to loud noises. Smoking and diabetes also can lead to hearing impairment. Like skin damage from sun exposure, the cumulative effect of today’s loud societies has led to a greater incidence of hearing loss that becomes increasingly apparent over a lifetime—that is, in older adults. Noise exposure is the most preventable cause of hearing loss.
Myth: Excessive noise won’t cause hearing loss.
Any sounds above 85 decibels for an extensive time can contribute to permanent noise-induced hearing loss. What does that mean? To put that into perspective, a typical conversation is around 60 decibels and is unlikely to damage your hearing. A hair dryer or a power lawnmower is 90 decibels, while an ambulance siren is 120 decibels. Regular and prolonged unprotected exposure above 85 decibels is considered hazardous. Noise-induced hearing loss can occur in work environments, like in manufacturing, construction and any environment that uses heavy machinery. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for hearing loss to occur.
Truth: Tiny hairs in ears can affect hearing loss.
Tiny hairs in the inner ear play a huge part in the hearing process. Located inside the cochlea, these hair cells rock back and forth with the vibration of a sound and turn the vibration into electrical signals that help our brain understand the sound.7 These tiny hairs are fragile and once damaged, they cannot grow back. If sounds are too loud then the hair cells are damaged and stop transmitting sound. Damage can occur by not protecting ears from excessive sound. Wearing ear protection while doing yard work, lowering the volume on head phones and sitting farther from sound amplifiers at concerts are all examples of self-protective measures.
Truth: On average, people wait 5 to 7 years before seeking help for their hearing loss.4
Five to seven years is a very long time to have to struggle with your hearing. Why do people wait that long? There are many reasons why people live with hearing loss. Fewer than 16 percent of family doctors test for hearing loss. Hearing loss is so gradual that it’s hard to notice. Hearing loss frequently occurs for higher pitched sounds, which means some lower pitched sounds and voices may be heard normally, creating the perception of normal hearing. Many people assume hearing loss is age-related and it’s either something to be accepted or something to be ashamed of. Annual hearing testing may help those with hearing loss gain a quicker diagnosis, treatment, and benefit from hearing aids that come in a number of different colors and styles.
Myth: Hearing loss affects only older adults.
Hearing loss does not discriminate. About two-thirds of all hearing loss is in people under 65 years of age.5 Even more alarming is that today 1 in 5 teenagers (ages 12 – 19) have hearing loss in one or both ears from listening to music too loud, illness, medications or genetics. The World Health Organization has warned that 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss “due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars, and sporting events.”6