For a long time, hearing loss has been associated with old age. In fact, this is one of the things that have prevented many people from getting hearing aids – they think that the devices will make them look old. Although it is true that many senior citizens are struggling with hearing impairment, age isn't the only risk factor for this condition. Other risk factors include:
Some people are genetically predisposed to hearing impairment. It is a common birth defect that affects as many as three children per 1,000 babies born. Inherited defective genes account for about 60% of hearing impairment in infants. You may not be able to do to prevent hereditary deafness is concerned, but there are interventions that can improve the hearing ability. A good example is a cochlear implant, which stimulates the auditory nerve (responsible for hearing) in the inner ear.
Not all children who are born with a hearing impairment inherited the condition; other birth defects can also damage a baby's hearing while he or she is still in the womb. These defects may be triggered by various factors such as medication used by the mother and trauma during pregnancy.
It is unfortunate that hearing impairment can be a side effect of some medications. Examples are drugs used to manage inflammation, treat high-blood pressure or manage cancer. You can mitigate the risks by taking your medication as required – watch out for overdosing. Also, report any adverse effects to your physician as soon as possible.
Noises, both occupational and hereditary, can also damage your hearing. For example, your hearing can be damaged by a discharging firearm, a screaming jet engine or even construction machinery noises. The damage may be sudden or gradual. Therefore, you should take precautions whenever you find yourself in noisy environments. If you have to be in a noisy place, for example due to the demands of your work, then protect your ears by wearing ear plugs or muffs.
Certain infections can also lead to hearing loss. This usually happens when the infections affect the tissues of your cochlea, the portion of your inner ear responsible for the propagation of sound waves. Examples of such infections include inflammation of the ear canal and viral diseases such as influenza. This is one more reason why you should always get prompt treatment not only for your ear infection but for all other infections.
Do what you can to protect your ears. The minute you suspect that you are developing hearing impairment, you should consult an audiologist for testing and treatment. Delaying treatment increases the risks of the damage being permanent. If the damage is permanent, your audiologist can get you fit for hearing aids so you can keep up with your regular life without worrying about hearing loss.