March is right around the corner and while this may mean to many coming in like a lion with the inevitable lamb at the other side, for us it marks World Health Day on March 3rd. This international campaign held by the World Health Organization (WHO) aims to raise awareness and come up with strategies to help prevent hearing loss and treat it on a global scale. For 2023 the theme is “ear and hearing care for all”.
WHO projects that 1.5 billion people struggle with hearing loss worldwide and this number is projected to double if trends don’t change. This includes awareness around the risks of hearing loss as well as the importance of providing accessible and affordable hearing healthcare. Hearing loss affects people regardless of age, demographic, or economic background. However, WHO notes that countries with less resources often suffer higher rates of hearing loss due to environmental toxins, and less access to proper healthcare. This month we urge you to join in World Hearing Day by understanding the causes of hearing loss, how to protect yourself and the importance of regular hearing exams.
Causes of Hearing Loss
While a buildup of earwax or fluid in the ear can cause conductive hearing loss, 90 percent of cases are sensorineural. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the tiny cells of the inner ear become damaged. These hair-like cells are called stereocilia and responsible for transmitting audio waves into electrical impulses which can be interpreted by the brain. When damage occurs to these cells it blocks certain sounds from reaching the brain making it difficult to hear certain pitches and tones in speech and making it easier to miss some sounds in your environment.
The most common type of hearing loss by far is presbycusis, also known as age related, however hearing loss can occur to anyone at any age. Other common causes of sensorineural hearing loss include:
- Exposure to noise in occupational or recreational settings
- Impact to the head resulting in a traumatic brain injury
- Inadequate delivery of blood to the cells of the inner ear due to chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease.
- Certain environmental toxins such as carbon dioxide caused by car fumes
- Certain prescription and over the counter medications.
Protecting Your Hearing
Sensorineural hearing loss is a permanent condition, and the effects of letting it go untreated stretch far beyond not being able to hear every now and then. Hearing loss is a communication issue and when parts of words are diminished it can be difficult to carry on conversations even with those close to you. Over time this can lead to social isolation, chronic depression, a decrease in earnings for those still in the workforce, a higher risk of falls and higher rates of cognitive decline and even dementia!
If you know the causes of hearing loss and understand the severity of avoiding treatment, then you know how paramount it is to protect your hearing now. While all hearing loss can’t be prevented there are a few things you can do to lower your risk of developing hearing loss.
- When exposed to loud noise, it’s recommended you wear hearing protection
- When driving in a car, playing contact sports or while riding a bike, be sure to protect your head with a helmet
- Improve your blood flow: Make sure to eat a balanced diet rich in vegetables and lean proteins while avoiding processed foods and sugars
- Add regular exercise to your daily routine—even 30 minutes 3 times a week can help improve blood flow to your ears.
- Monitor your medications and protect yourself from environmental toxins when possible, by using an air filter in your home and workplace.
Treating Your Hearing Loss
The sooner you address a hearing loss the better. Get in front of a hearing loss by catching it early. It may help improve the quality of your life in several ways by promoting an active life, connecting with loved ones and keeping your cognitive health sharp. How can you celebrate World Hearing Day on March 3rd?! It’s easy! Schedule a hearing exam with us today and help set a world trend in hearing health!