Young african american woman wearing casual clothes smiling with

Celebrate World Hearing Day: Ear and Hearing Care for All! 

Dr. Molly DillonHearing Health

Dr. Molly Dillon
Latest posts by Dr. Molly Dillon (see all)

Did you know that March 3rd is World Hearing Day? Organized by the World Health Organization (WHO), this global campaign is all about advocating for hearing health. You can participate in World Hearing Day by scheduling an appointment for a hearing test which is an effective way to support your hearing health.

What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss is a medical condition that reduces a person’s capacity to hear and process speech as well as sound. It is one of the most common health issues that people live with today:

  • Nearly 1 in 5 people have some degree of hearing loss which affects over 48 million people.
  •  15% of adults have impaired hearing.
  • The prevalence of hearing loss is twice as common as diabetes or cancer.
  • 1 in 3 adults, ages 65-74, have hearing loss.
  • 1 in 3 adults, ages 75 and older have disabling hearing loss.

Hearing loss can be either acquired – develops after birth – or congenital which means it is present at birth. The majority of hearing loss that is experienced is acquired. Most cases of hearing loss occur as a result of damage to the sensory cells in the inner ear.

What causes hearing loss?

Several factors can contribute to the development of hearing loss. A few of the most common causes include:

  • Loud noise: one time or consistent exposure to loud noise can damage the sensory cells in the inner ear. There are thousands of sensory cells in the cochlea which play a major role in how sound is processed. These sensory cells act as reception, reviewing incoming sound waves and converting them into electrical signals that get sent to the brain. The brain is then able to further process these signals and assign meaning to them, allowing us to understand what we hear. Loud noise can desensitize and weaken these sensory cells, reducing their ability to process incoming soundwaves effectively. This results in the brain receiving less auditory input, causing noise induced hearing loss. 
  • Aging: the risk of age related hearing loss increases with age. Also known as presbycusis, age related hearing loss can be caused by a few factors. This includes the impact of loud noise over time, changes to the ear, or existing medical conditions that also impact older adults disproportionality and are linked to hearing loss.
  • Medical conditions: extensive research shows that several medical conditions can increase the risk of developing hearing loss. This includes heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes which are all conditions that can impact blood flow. Blood flow can be restricted throughout the body including the inner ear, disrupting the processing of soundwaves and contributing to hearing loss.

Other causes of hearing loss include: head injuries, chronic ear infections, inner ear disorders, and autoimmune conditions.

What are common hearing loss symptoms? 

Hearing loss typically occurs gradually so symptoms can remain unnoticed for quite some time. Common hearing loss symptoms include:

  • Tinnitus: a ringing or buzzing noise in one or both ears that only you can hear.
  • Sounds are muffled or slurred, making it tough to distinguish words.
  • Struggling to keep up with conversations, especially in places with background noise (like restaurants).
  • Lip reading to help identify individual words.
  • Feeling excluded or left out of conversations.
  • Need to turn up the volume on electronic devices like your TV, speaker, phone etc.
  • Frequently asking others to repeat what they said, speak louder, and/or slower.
  • Pretending to hear to get through a conversation.
  • Difficulty hearing on the phone.
  • Feeling exhausted after conversations.

These symptoms can be mild to profound, depending on the degree of hearing loss present in each ear. To cope with symptoms, people often avoid conversations as much as possible. This can look like keeping conversations short, skipping social activities and gatherings, and spending less time with loved ones. Social withdrawal is a major effect of untreated hearing loss. This can affect relationships and take a toll on mental health by contributing to the development of depressive symptoms.

Prioritize Your Hearing Health This March

World Hearing Day is a great reminder to prioritize your hearing health and wellness. There are effective solutions that transform hearing health and quality of life. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation.