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What is hearing loss?

What is hearing loss?

The most common causes of hearing loss are noise and ageing. A hearing loss can be sensorineural, conductive or mixed.

Loss of hearing is a natural consequence of getting older. Our hearing ability worsens from our 30s or 40s and onwards and when we reach our 80s, more than half of us suffer from significant hearing loss. Age-related loss of hearing is called Presbyacusis.

Another common reason for hearing loss is exposure to noise. Hearing loss can be seen as a consequence of living in a noisy world. This noise can come from our work or from voluntary exposure to noise, such as noisy motors or loud music at rock concerts, night clubs, discos and from stereos - with or without the use of headphones. Also the increasing use of portable MP3 players is increasing the effects of hearing loss.

Here, you can find facts on the different types of hearing loss and some of the most common diseases which cause hearing loss. Read more about the causes of hearing loss.

Types of hearing loss

A hearing loss can be sensorineural, concuctive or mixed. A sensorineural hearing loss results from damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear.

A conductive hearing loss is a hearing loss where the ears ablility to conduct sound into the inner ear is blocked or reduced.

A mixed hearing loss is a combination of a conductive hearing loss and a sensorineural hearing loss. A hearing loss can also be a bilateral hearing loss or a single sided hearing loss.

Symptoms of hearing loss

Most cases of hearing loss develop gradually so the symptoms are often difficult to recognise. If you experience some signs of hearing impairment, you should contact your family doctor or hearing health care professional and have your hearing tested. Read more about the symptoms of hearing loss.

Prevalence of hearing loss

Hearing loss is fairly widespread. If you carried out a hearing test on a larger group of people, one-in-six would have a hearing loss of more than 25 dB, which is the definition of hearing impairment recognised by the World Health Organisation, WHO. This means that around 16-17% of all adults have a hearing loss.

Numerous studies in Europe and USA have asked whether people have hearing loss. Around 10-11% of people asked answer they believe that they have a hearing loss. This is the same as between every ninth or tenth adult.

The difference between the two numbers is because it is not everybody with a hearing loss who is actually aware of it.

The older one becomes, the higher the likelihood that you have a hearing loss.

Prevention of hearing loss

Daily exposure to noise is directly related to the risk of hearing damage. We are exposed to loud noises daily. For example, when we are in traffic, the gym, the cinema, stadiums, cafés and at work. If the noise level is too high, it is a good idea to use ear plugs. Read more about preventing hearing loss.

Consequenses of hearing loss

Most people with hearing loss suffer some social, psychological and physical problems as a result of their hearing loss.

You can find information about the social and psychological consequences of hearing loss, and you can read about noise, sound and one of our most incredible organs - the ear.

Furthermore, you can read about the prevalence of hearing loss and review the conditions and regulations governing the dispensing of hearing aids in different countries.

Read more:

Types of hearing loss

Age-related hearing loss

Noise-induced hearing loss

Sound impressions of hearing loss and tinnitus

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