The Growing Population with Hearing Loss
Updated: January 24, 2019
We are quite the noisy population.
Everywhere we go, sound is always surrounding us. Whether it’s police sirens passing by, or music through our headphones on our way to work, there is always background noise.
Over 5% of the world’s population – 360 million people – has disabling hearing loss (328 million adults and 32 million children).
In America, around 20% of people have some degree of hearing loss (that’s 48 million Americans!).
Hearing loss is prevalent in all age groups, from adolescents to senior citizens.
One study found a 31% increase in mild hearing loss among adolescents. Researchers attribute this drastic increase to headphone use.
However, hearing loss among Americans ages 20 to 69 has decreased by 2% in the last decade.
A possible explanation for this collapse can be attributed to the rise of robots replacing noisy factory jobs, as well as the reduction of medications that cause hearing loss, the significant cutback in smoking, and overall advancements in health.
The Suspects Behind Hearing Loss
While hearing loss has decreased among adult Americans, age is still the strongest predictor of hearing loss.
Around 1 in 2 adults over 65 experience some degree of hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss, also called presbycusis, occurs over time and is due to changes in the inner ear like changes in blood flow, or other issues like diabetes and family history of hearing loss.
Other predictors of hearing loss include demographic factors like gender, race, and education. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders disclosed that men are twice as likely to have hearing loss than women, while “non-Hispanic white adults are more likely to have hearing loss than adults in other ethnic groups.”
Noise pollution commonly referred to as the “modern unseen plague,” is also a leading cause of hearing loss.
Alarmingly, the U.S. Census Bureau cites the biggest problem affecting American neighborhoods was recorded to be noise, not crime.
But this noisy invasion isn’t just in America, all over the world people are tormented by noise. Whether it’s noise from sirens, neighbors, toys, or domestic electric appliances.
And if you work at a job with a cacophony of noise, your hearing is in even more danger.
While it’s true that robots have taken over some of the more noisier jobs, they haven’t gained total control (yet). Many Americans still have to endure the sounds of high pitched engine roars, wailing sirens, and torturous drilling equipment.
And among veterans, noise-induced hearing loss is a big problem. Veterans were 30% more likely to have severe hearing impairment than nonveterans. Their constant exposure to firearms, explosives, jet engines, machinery, and other rambunctious equipment is severely affecting their hearing.
Luckily, all these noise-related causes to hearing loss are preventable. Wearing ear protective devices like earplugs, keeping the volume low, and taking frequent breaks from loud noises, can help diminish the overall effects.
From hearing aids to cochlear implants to cell experimentation
Hearing technology is reaching new levels these days.
Hearing aids alone are incredibly advanced allowing users to connect to Bluetooth and even reduce the amplification of wind against the microphone.
Cochlear implants have also made monumental advancements, giving users clearer than ever sounds.
And then there is cell experimentation. Like birds, scientist are trying to make human cells regenerate to restore hearing.
The plan is to one day have a drug that can be injected into a patient’s ear, which would then help restore the ear to “what it was.”
These incredible advancements in technology could truly revolutionize the state of hearing loss in America.
But for those who opt out of hearing technology, there has also been an incredible increase in American Sign Language (ASL) speakers. Today, ASL is “the fourth most-used language in the United States.”
Colleges have seen a 16% increase in enrollment for ASL classes, with many students going on waitlists to try to get in. The growth of ASL symbolizes the nation’s desire to create a more unified nation and bridge the accessibility gap.
Turn down the TV volume and press “on” for captions
In 1972, the first-ever televised program was shown with closed captioning, Julia Child’s “The French Chef.”
This was an incredible success for the d/Deaf and hard of hearing population in America as the world was progressively becoming more aware of the need for greater inclusion.
Captions are like flat “rocker” light switches. These modern looking light switches were designed for more than just their aesthetic characteristics. They were made so that individuals who may not have full use of their fingers could use other parts of their body to turn lights on and off.
Like flat ‘rocker’ light switches, captions are a universally inclusive design idea. They help people with hearing loss understand content, but they also benefit others without hearing loss.
When you don’t have headphones or are in a noisy environment, captions help viewers understand the content without the need for sound.
Captions also help with language development, comprehension, engagement, and memory.
As video continues to become a popular medium to disseminate information, it’s important to include captioning in the process so that everyone can equally enjoy the content presented.
Get started with captioning today!
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