Hearing loss affects around 1.5-billion people globally. Mostly, it is a product of aging, (though loud noises, toxic chemical exposure and medication can all play a role). As the tissues in the middle and inner ear get older, they become less adept at transmitting sounds to the inner ear, leading to symptoms of hearing loss. This so-called “sensorineural” hearing loss often requires hearing aids.

Other people develop conductive hearing loss. This condition occurs when the bones in the inner ear fuse together and can no longer transmit sounds from the eardrum to the cochlear. Unfortunately, hearing loss is a topic not a lot of people talk about, which can cause some myths and misinformation to get passed around.

The purpose of this post is to help debunk some of those myths so that you have an accurate picture of what hearing loss is, and what it isn’t.

Myth 1: Your Hearing is OK as Long as You Can Hear Something

Professionals measure hearing loss on a scale from mild to profound. If you have mild hearing loss, you can hear most sounds, but may not be able to appreciate birdsong or detect people whispering from a distance. If you have profound hearing loss, you may struggle to detect sirens from emergency vehicles or music in a disco. But in most cases, people with hearing loss can hear something.

Therefore, the idea that you are okay as long as you can hear something is a little disingenuous. Even people with severe hearing loss are able to detect noises over a certain threshold.

Unfortunately, it’s not okay to ignore hearing loss. Doing so can result in:

• Worsening of your condition
• The development of tinnitus – a persistent ringing in the ears
• Danger to your life because you cannot hear traffic or other audible warnings
• Social isolation

Myth 2: Hearing Loss Doesn’t Affect Your Health

The idea that hearing loss doesn’t affect the rest of your health is another common myth. It’s simply not true.

For instance, researchers have known for a long time that hearing loss is already associated with a higher risk of mental health issues (because of the propensity for people with the condition to isolate themselves socially). But now there is emerging data that it increases your risk of developing dementia, too. Lack of stimulation of the auditory cortex and less demanding social interactions may tip the brain into a diseased state.

Further evidence also points to a relationship between hearing loss and declining balance. People who can’t hear as well are also more likely to trip and fall which can be fatal for some older adults.

Myth 3: Hearing Loss Results Exclusively from Noise

Loud noises are a significant contributor to hearing loss. Regularly exposing yourself to sounds over 85dBs puts you at a higher risk of being hard of hearing later in life. However, they are not the only cause. There are many factors that could be at play.

As discussed in the introduction, aging is one possible cause, but there are others. For instance, hearing loss can be hereditary. Genetic susceptibility leads to trouble hearing, no matter how well you look after your ears.

For others, the problem is medication. Loop diuretics, chemotherapy drugs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and even aspirin can all contribute to hearing loss. With that said, even though situations where loud noises unequivocally cause hearing loss are rare, they can occur. Explosions, jet engines and other extremely loud events over 120dBs can damage ears permanently.

Myth #4: Hearing Loss Can’t Be Prevented

Lastly, while it is true that nobody can reduce their risk of hearing loss to zero, there are strategies that can cut it significantly. The first is to steer clear of loud noises. If you go to rock concerts, discos, or any other noisy event, take hearing protection with you. Standard foam earbuds should reduce incoming noise between 20-30dBs.

Second, don’t listen to music at full volume through earphones or headphones. Even though it might not cause any immediate damage, harm can accumulate over time. Third, focus on improving your overall health. Not smoking, drinking moderately, exercising and eating plenty of vegetables can all improve circulation in the ear and slow the rate at which tissues age.

Lastly, if you are around loud noises over 85dBs regularly (about the sound of passing traffic), make sure you take regular breaks. Time out gives the sensitive structures in your ear a chance to recover, lowering the risk of damage from subsequent sound exposures.

If you’d like to learn more about hearing loss or get your hearing checked, get in touch with Nu-Life Hearing Centre on (855) 867-7449.

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