Close to 30 million Americans aged 50 and older have trouble hearing. At least one million people in the country, including children and adults, are deaf. Despite these sad statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) failed to include hearing loss in its last study on the presence of disability in the United States.
The CDC study does include an examination of other common disabilities, such as vision loss. The Hearing Health Foundation spoke out about the loss of hearing being left out of the study. The organization pointed out how important auditory health is, and the fact that hearing loss is the third most common public health concern after diabetes and heart disease.
The CDC responded to criticism by saying, “We would have loved to include data on people with hearing loss. The report is based on a telephone survey that doesn’t reach people with hearing loss.”
The Hearing Health Foundation launched a petition asking the Centers for Disease Control to rethink their approach for collecting data and do their survey over again to include loss of hearing.
Hearing Loss in American – Why it Happens
People often take auditory health for granted until something goes wrong. They wonder how they went from enjoying the harmonious sound of music or children’s laughter to buzzing, or faint mumbling or nothing.
People can experience hearing loss for many different reasons, but there are some common causes. One of the more familiar types of hearing loss is called presbycusis. This is a condition that happens when you have been exposed to loud noises over a long period of time. This gradual loss of hearing is caused by the death of hair cells in your cochlea, which is your inner ear. This can’t be repaired, but limiting exposure to loud noises can prevent it from getting worse.
Some people have a feeling of fullness in their ears that impacts their hearing. This can be mucus from an infection or an allergy that blocks the tube that connects the throat to the middle ear. Usually, the hearing becomes muffled. This goes away when the infection clears up.
There are cases where hearing loss is sudden. This could mean the swelling and fluid has built up as a result of a virus or ear infection. This requires immediate medical attention and medical therapies.
Loss of hearing that includes dizziness, trouble with balance and nausea could be Meniere’s disease. This condition alters the amount, flow and chemical make-up of the fluid in the inner ear. Meniere’s can’t be cured, but fluid in the ear can be reduced with a low-sodium diet. In some cases, doctors will insert a tube into the ear to drain excess fluid.
These are just a few examples – hearing loss can be the result of aging, injury, disease, exposure to toxic drugs or even an inherited condition.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Daily Life
As the statistics demonstrate, hearing loss is not just a problem for the elderly. It can strike at any age. Research has shown that loss of hearing can have a considerable impact on social, psychological, as well as physical well-being. People who experience loss of hearing often have difficulty communicating, leading to negative effects on their personal and professional lives. For children, hearing loss can lead to difficulty learning, difficulty socializing and low self-esteem. When it comes to older people, it often leads to a feeling of loneliness and isolation.
Studies on auditory health suggest the following are the most common outcomes of hearing loss:
• Irritability and anger
• Fatigue and depression
• Avoidance and withdrawal from social situations
• Impaired memory
• Reduced job performance
• Reduced alertness (risk to safety)
• Inability to learn new tasks
Many of the effects listed also apply to people who suffer from vision loss. While both vision loss and hearing loss are huge challenges, these conditions do not mean that life can’t go on. For example, several studies show that those who suffer from hearing loss are better drivers than those who don’t have hearing problems. In one Swedish driving study, the results demonstrated that people with hearing loss were much more cautious behind the wheel. They lowered their speed when traffic situations became more difficult, and they checked their mirrors more often than drivers with normal hearing.
The Hearing Health Foundation feels it is important to educate the public about hearing loss; after all, their mission is to eliminate it. Supporters of the foundation believe that having it recognized in the CDC study would go a long way in helping spread a message of prevention.
Warning Signs of Hearing Loss
If you’re concerned about your hearing there are a few warning signs to take note of. Some warning signs of hearing loss include:
• Ringing or buzzing in the ears
• You can hear people talking but have trouble understanding what they are saying
• After leaving a noisy event your ears feel “full”
Even though you may experience warning signs of hearing loss there are still steps you can take to preserve your hearing and not lose it altogether.
Prevention Tips for Hearing Loss
If you’re over the age of 50 you don’t have to fall victim to losing your hearing. There are easy preventative measures you can take to ensure you preserve your hearing and avoid the side effects hearing loss can cause. Prevention of hearing loss includes:
• Become aware of hazardous noise and take action to protect your ears – sporting events, concerts and firecrackers all create loud and dangerous sounds. If you are attending an event which will be noisy, ensure you wear protective gear like earplugs or distance yourself from the source of the noise.
• If you work at a noisy job site ensure you always wear protective equipment over your ears and that you do not expose yourself to loud sounds for very long.
• Keep volumes on TVs, radios or other devices to a moderate level – especially if you are using headphones. The closer the sound, the lower the volume should be.
• Buy appliances and products which produce less noise.
• Go for routine hearing check-ups, especially the older you get.
The Better Hearing Institute suggests that one-third of hearing loss can be avoided with prevention strategies, so even if you think it’s too late or you’re too old, by following these tips you can still work to preserve your hearing for many more years to come.
Foods That Promotes Hearing Health
Beans and Leafy Greens
Most people know that folic acid is associated with prenatal vitamins, but the perks of folate don’t stop at birth. High folate intake throughout life has been associated with a decreased risk of age-related hearing loss. Folate can be found in several foods including spinach, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, and more. Try adding a few of these top folate foods into a daily diet to reap the rewards.
Foods high in potassium are extremely important to include in a daily diet if you are worried about hearing loss. Potassium helps to regular the amount of fluid in the body tissues and blood, including the fluid that is found in the inner ear. This part of the ear is what translates the noise we hear around us into impulses that our brain interoperates as sound. Potassium-rich foods include bananas, avocados, potatoes, spinach, milk, oranges, tomatoes, and more.
Nuts and Seeds
Something as simple as a healthy trail mix can be useful for the prevention and possible treatment of sudden sensorineural hearing loss (sudden, unexplained hearing loss). Certain nuts and seeds have a healthy serving of zinc which can play an important role in immune-boosting and help to prevent issues such as ear infections, which could play a role in hearing loss.
B12 Supplemented foods
For those who suffer from chronic tinnitus, vitamin B12 may help. Studies have shown that people who suffer from a B12 deficiency have a higher risk of tinnitus. Foods that are fortified are a good choice for those lacking the vitamin, and many meats and dairy farmers give B12 supplements to their livestock, so animal protein contains the highest amount of the vitamin. Try adding as many forms of vitamin B12 into your daily diet to reduce the risk of hearing problems.
Studies have shown how important magnesium can be for the management of noise-related hearing loss. Researchers from the University of Michigan Kresge Hearing Research Institute have shown that people treated with magnesium were protected from noise-related hearing loss. They believe this is due to magnesium’s ability to fight the effects of free radicals generated by loud noise by acting as a barrier that protects the hair cells in the inner ear.
Healthy Lifestyle Tips to Prevent Hearing Loss
Manage Your Blood Pressure
Everyone knows that high blood pressure can affect many parts of the body, but what many don’t know is that it can even affect the ears. High blood pressure and heart disease over time can damage the fragile mechanisms that help with hearing. Managing high blood pressure is often one of the main steps people choose to take when changing to a healthier lifestyle. Be sure to work with a doctor to get your blood pressure under control.
Give Up Smoking
If you have been looking for the reason to quit, this could just be it! Mounting research suggests that smokers have an increased risk of hearing loss. Smoking can cause constrictions in the blood vessels, leading to poor circulation and eventually cutting of oxygen to certain parts of the body. This can prevent the body from making repairs to damaged hair cells in the ears, leading to permanent hearing damage.
Keep Diabetes Under Control
Studies show that people with diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss because the disease can damage cells in the inner ear. If you suffer from diabetes or blood sugar issues, be sure to keep it under control and follow your doctor’s orders for management.
Eat Foods High in Certain Vitamins and Minerals
As mentioned previously, the foods you eat can go a long way towards lowering the risk of hearing loss. There are many vitamins that are vital for good hearing, and with many foods packed with healthy vitamins, it is easy to add them into a daily diet. The same is true for many minerals, as it has been proven that an iron deficiency has been linked to hearing loss.