Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States, with approximately 48 million Americans experiencing some degree of hearing impairment. That makes it even more common than cancer or diabetes.
Contrary to popular belief, hearing loss isn't just something that "old" people get. In fact, 75 percent of people with hearing impairment are below the age of 651. That's because noise is one of the top causes of hearing loss, and the world around us is getting noisier. Rock concerts or stadium events may seem like obvious threats to our hearing, but the everyday sounds from heavy traffic, busy restaurants, or music with the volume turned up can be equally dangerous over time. As a result, hearing health has significantly decreased among a younger demographic, with 30 percent more teens experiencing impairments in the early 2000s when earbuds became popular, compared to teens in the 1980s and 1990s2.
Why should we care about all of this? While hearing health may not receive as much attention as other chronic diseases, it is paramount to everyday health and wellness. Studies have suggested that hearing impairment is twice as common in individuals with diabetes3 and is also more prevalent in hypertension patients4. People with hearing loss are also twice as likely to suffer from depression5. But hearing health has even more important ramifications for our cognitive wellbeing.
A recent research study published in the revered medical journal The Lancet found that hearing loss was the top modifiable risk factor for dementia6. Stated more simply, correcting hearing was the number one change people can make to decrease their risk of getting dementia.
This silent health epidemic impacts people not only on a personal level, but at a macroeconomic level as well. A survey by the Better Hearing Institute found that hearing loss can reduce annual household income by as much as $30,0007, and the economic impact has been estimated at up to $194 billion annually in lost productivity to the American economy8.
The silver lining is that while hearing loss cannot be cured, it can be treated. World-renowned otologist Dr. Rodney Perkins says, "Over 90 percent of people with hearing impairments do not require surgical remedies or medication to be treated." Dr. Perkins, who has won the Weingarten Children's Center Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions as a surgeon, educator, and medical device entrepreneur, regularly gives free educational seminars on hearing health and innovative hearing technology out of The Perkins Clinic, in Menlo Park.
"I'm excited about the huge strides technology is making in designing and developing new hearing solutions. We're definitely not talking about your grandmother's hearing aid anymore," Dr. Perkins states.
Whether by integrating artificial intelligence to help process sound better, or Bluetooth streaming of multimedia, the hearing industry is looking to technology companies to evolve. Earlens is leading this new category of hearing technology, with a unique contact hearing solution that directly vibrates the eardrum and produces a full spectrum of sound unlike traditional hearing aids.
This fall, the Perkins Clinic is conducting complimentary hearing wellness seminars. To register for the next seminar, call us at (650) 417-9860 or register online here.
The Perkins Clinic is a state-of-the-art hearing clinic located in Menlo Park.
1 World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/pbd/deafness/news/Millionslivewithhearingloss.pdf
2 Shargorodsky J, Curhan SG, Curhan GC, Eavey R. Change in Prevalence of Hearing Loss in US Adolescents. JAMA. 2010;304(7):772–778. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1124
3 Bainbridge KE, Hoffman HJ, Cowie CC. Diabetes and Hearing Impairment in the United States: Audiometric Evidence from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999 to 2004. Ann Intern Med. 2008;149:1–10. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-149-1-200807010-00231
4 Agarwal S, Mishra A, Jagade M, Kasbekar V, Nagle SK. Effects of hypertension on hearing. Indian J Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2013;65(Suppl 3):614–618. doi:10.1007/s12070-013-0630-1
5 Association of Audiometric Age-Related Hearing Loss With Depressive Symptoms Among Hispanic Individuals" by Justin S. Golub, MD, MS; Katharine K. Brewster, MD; Adam M. Brickman, PhD; Adam J. Ciarleglio, PhD; Ana H. Kim, MD; José A. Luchsinger, MD, MPH; and Bret R. Rutherford, MD in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery. Published December 6 2018. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2018.3270
6 Livingston G, Sommerlad A, et. Al. Dementia prevention, intervention, and care. The Lancet. 2017; 390(10113(:2673-2734. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)31363-6
7 S Kochkin. The efficacy of hearing aids in achieving compensation equity in the workplace. The Hearing Journal. 2010;63(10).
8 Huddle MG, Goman AM, Kernizan FC, et al. The Economic Impact of Adult Hearing Loss: A Systematic Review. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017;143(10):1040–1048. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2017.1243