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What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss, or hearing impairment happens when there is a problem with one or more parts of the ears, the nerve that connects the ears to the brain, or the part of the brain that controls hearing.  An impairment means that something along this pathway is not working correctly.

Hearing loss can affect people in varying degrees.  Someone with a loss might be able to hear speech, but not understand.  Some people with hearing loss may not be able to hear much of anything at all.

Hearing loss is not reserved for the elderly.  About 3 in 1,000 babies are born with some type of hearing loss, making it the most common birth defect.

How prevalent is hearing loss?  Well, we already know it is the most common birth defect.  So, that means many people are born with hearing loss.  However, hearing loss can often be acquired over time as well.  Approximately 15% of adults over age 18 report some hearing problems, that’s about 37.5 million people in the United States.  Men are almost twice as likely as women to have hearing loss among adults aged 20-69.

It’s true that your age will also affect your hearing abilities.  About 2% of adults aged 45-54 have a disabling hearing loss.  That rate increases to 8.5% of adults 55-64.  And nearly 25% of those aged 65-74 have a hearing loss that affects daily life.  For people aged 75 and up, the number of disabling hearing impairments jumps to 50%!  That’s a lot of people!  

In the United States alone, there are about 28.8 million people that could benefit from using hearing aids.  However, for adults that are 70 and above, fewer than one in three (30%) have ever used them.  And remember, the rate of disabling hearing loss is 50%.  

So, why do more people not use hearing aids?  Stay tuned to find out some barriers to treatment.