Picture of gearsMisinformation is more than just misleading, it can actually be dangerous. Unfortunately, a good number of the 360 million people in this world suffering from some degree of hearing loss will fail to get all the facts right.

For them, that can mean wasting money on inadequate or dangerous treatments, complications from untreated hearing problems and failing to take precautions to protect their ear health.

If you or someone you love has hearing loss, it’s time to get the facts and do your part to raise awareness. Consider five true things about hearing loss that you might not already know.

1. There are Four Main Categories of Hearing Loss

They focus on what is causing the diminished sound quality. Conductive hearing loss refers to sound not reaching the inner ear where it can be translated into electrical impulses for the brain to interpret. This can be anything from an excess of earwax to a mechanical defect in the middle or inner ear.

Sensorineural hearing loss is an actual dysfunction of the inner ear and the nerves system that sends impulses to the brain. With conductive hearing loss, if the sound can reach the inner ear, then the brain can interpret it. With sensorineural hearing loss, you can’t understand even amplified sound.

Central deafness refers to a problem with the brain that prevents hearing. It might be a disease process like cancer or trauma that affects the auditory nerve function.

For most people with age-related issues, the answer is a mixed hearing loss. This is a combination of conductive problems combined with sensorineural hearing loss.

2. Noise is the Number One Cause of Hearing Loss

The Better Hearing Institute reports 30 to 50 million people are exposed to levels of noise that damage their hearing each day. Around 10 million of Americans already have damage from noise, as well. The ear is basically a mechanical structure designed to amplify sound enough so it can reach the tiny hair cells of the inner ear. When the sound enters the ear already at a high volume, it ends up hitting the hair cells with such force that it causes trauma.

3. Noise-Related Hearing Loss is Gradual

This is why it is so dangerous. It is easy to underestimate the effect something like headphones has on the ears because it takes years of abuse for hearing loss to pop up. There is damage every time you:

  • Go to a rock concert and stand in the front
  • Go to a dance club
  • Run the lawn mower
  • Use your electric saw
  • Blow dry your hair

Add to that list wearing headphones for an hour a day and you get the idea. Noise damage is cumulative and easy to ignore right up until the time you need hearing aids.

4. Ringing in Your Ears Can Be the First Sign

The American Tinnitus Association estimates 30 to 50 million people in this country have ringing in their ears associated with tinnitus. About 16 percent of them will avoid seeing a doctor for it, though. For some, it’s just not troublesome enough to worry about yet, and, others don’t understand the implications of it. They might actually worry about what the doctor will say, so they stay away.

That’s the wrong choice, though, because tinnitus is often one of the first recognizable signs of hearing loss. The sooner you get treatment, the better because it might be possible to slow the progression by making lifestyle changes like reducing your exposure to noise. On average, a person with hearing loss waits up to seven years before getting help and only 16 percent of doctor’s screen for it regularly.

5. One out of Every Five People Could Use Hearing Aids

It’s a sad fact when you think about how many ways their life could improve with them. A basic hearing aid consists of a microphone to pick up sounds, an amplifier to make them louder and a receiver to send them to the inner ear. They also come with features that improve hearing even more like background noise filters and directional microphones.

Without them, these people struggle to stay engaged in their lives. They fight to understand conversations and may isolate themselves because they are always missing out on what’s going on anyway.

Your hearing is one of your most important senses. Get the facts right and improve your ear health in the process.