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"Is Hearing Loss Normal For My Age"?

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As we reach our 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's or older, many of us start noticing that it is more difficult to communicate in noisy restaurants, our young children or grandchildren are impossible to understand, or we may find ourselves leaning in to hear or asking for repetition a few too many times a day.  

Unfortunately, too many people accept hearing loss as they get older, thinking that it is a "normal" condition for their age.  What I like to say, is that hearing loss is more common as we age, but it is never a "normal" condition.  Hearing loss causes mental fatigue, social withdrawal and isolation, frustration, anxiety, depression, and contributes to risk of dementia due to cognitive overload, or working the brain too hard simply to hear and process auditory information. How can we call such a condition "normal"? 

Presbycusis, or hearing loss associated with aging, affects 1 in 3 individuals at age 65, and 1 in 2 individuals at age 70.  However, other factors such as loud noise exposure, cardiovascular disease, infections, genetics or birth defects, ototoxic drugs, diabetes, and heavy tobacco use can exacerbate or cause earlier-onset hearing loss than aging alone.  In fact, a 2010 study in The Journal of the American Medical Association found 1 in 5 U.S. teenagers already demonstrated some hearing loss, setting themselves up for greater hearing loss as they age.  This 30% increased prevalence of hearing loss in teenagers since the late 1980s is likely due to increased loud noise exposure, including use of personal music and sound devices. 

The high prevalence of hearing loss has spurred manufacturers to develop smart, discreet, high-tech solutions to meet the demands of the active and health-conscious adult of today.   More and more individuals are taking steps to protect their hearing when exposed to loud noise.  And although never a "normal" condition,  hearing loss can be successfully treated so that you can remain connected and engaged even as you age.