Hearing loss is the partial or total inability to hear sounds. Hearing loss can happen to anyone, no matter what age. Most hearing loss is caused by one of six different reasons.
- The natural aging process
- Middle-ear infections
- Exposure to damaging noise
- A head injury or trauma
- Exposure to chemicals or medications that damage the ears
Approximately 360 million people worldwide have a disabling hearing loss, which corresponds to over 5% of the world's population. The majority of people with a disabling hearing loss live in low- and middle-income countries. Approximately one-third of people over 65 years old are affected by a disabling hearing loss. Half of all cases of hearing loss can be prevented. Some strategies for prevention include: immunizing children, avoidance of ototoxic drugs, and reducing exposure to loud noises.
Hearing loss has high costs for both individuals and society at large. Hearing loss can reduce one's ability to communicate with others and comprehend speech in noisy environments. Not being able to communicate with others can contribute to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and frustration, especially among older people with hearing loss. Negative attitudes and stereotypes associated with hearing loss often prevent people from seeking solutions and taking action. Children who do not receive treatment for a hearing loss often experience delays in the development of communication skills. This can lead to reduced academic performance and affect their prospects later in life. Hearing loss affects the social and economic development of communities around the world. Overall, it is difficult for many hearing impaired persons to acquire, perform, and keep a job. Adults with hearing loss tend to have much higher unemployment rates than those with normal hearing. This will have large costs for society, especially since retirement ages in many high-income countries are increasing.
Source: WHO Fact Sheet Number 300A disabling hearing loss refers to hearing loss greater that 40dB in the better hearing ear in adults and a hearing loss greater than 30dB in the better hearing ear in children.