Hearing loss is more common than you might think, and it has many different degrees and causes of hearing loss. Roughly one in every eight Americans have hearing loss in both ears.
In the hearing process, sound waves enter our ears and create vibrations that are carried to the brain by the middle and inner ear and translated into sounds. Hearing loss can occur when any of these parts suffer damage.
Aging is probably the best-known cause of hearing loss. Generally age-related hearing loss occurs when tiny hairs that help process sound in the inner ear suffer damage over the years and cannot regrow.
Damage is another common cause of hearing loss. This damage can be from hearing one too-loud sound or cumulative damage over time from frequent exposure to sounds over 70 decibels (see HERE for a helpful decibel chart). It can also be caused by chronic ear infections, meningitis, or trauma to the ear or head (such as experiencing a blow to the head or a punctured ear drum).
Additionally, some people are born with varying degrees of hearing loss due to genetic factors or problems during gestation. Others suffer temporary hearing difficulties due to a buildup of earwax. Some of these factors are unavoidable, but others can be reduced by wearing proper ear protection around noises over 70 decibels.
Hearing loss can have a profound effect on one’s life. If you are experiencing difficulty hearing, talk to your doctor. Hearing aids are not generally covered by medical insurance, so it’s important to check whether your vision or dental plan includes coverage for hearing aid fitting and purchase – if not, hearing aids are eligible purchases for Health Savings Accounts, Flexible Spending Accounts, and Health Reimbursement Accounts.