Affecting approximately 36 million Americans, hearing loss is one of the most common medical conditions found in people of advanced age. Hearing loss can alter nearly all aspects of life: Those suffering may miss out on conversations with friends, the ringing of the doorbell, and even the sounds of traffic on the road.

Untreated hearing loss can have a major impact on your health, causing memory problems, depression, headaches, and more. Surprisingly, hearing loss often begins to occur at a much younger age than you may expect — many people begin to experience declines in hearing while in their 30s.

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Types of Hearing Loss

The two most common forms of hearing loss are age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss.

Age-related hearing loss

Some degree of hearing loss may be a normal part of aging.

Age-related hearing loss occurs gradually and tends to affect each ear equally. It’s often the result of changes in the inner ear. Because age-related hearing loss occurs over time, it can be difficult to recognize. This type of hearing loss can be worsened by a number of factors, including lifestyle habits like smoking, and medical conditions, including diabetes and high blood pressure.

Noise-induced hearing loss

Noise-induced hearing loss develops as a result of long-term exposure to excessive noise. It may be the result of damage to the sensory hairs in your ear, ruptured eardrums, or damaged bones in the middle ear.

Noise-induced hearing loss can happen at any age and can occur suddenly or gradually. It may also affect your ears differently. Industrial sounds, gunshots, and explosions are all possible causes of this type of hearing loss.

How You Can Prevent Hearing Loss

In many older adults, hearing loss is related to a combination of age-related and noise-induced factors. Unfortunately, researchers aren’t entirely sure what causes age-related hearing loss. We can take steps, however, to protect ourselves from noise-induced causes by wearing earplugs during exposure to loud sound, firearms, or outdoor equipment. We should also limit our exposure to prolonged loud noises.

Talking to Your Doctor About Hearing Loss

If you suspect you are starting to lose your hearing, you should consult a doctor. While there is no cure for hearing loss, there are many ways to treat and help reduce hearing loss over time.

For more, visit the website for Ear, Nose, and Throat Services at UPMC.

About Ear Nose and Throat

Ear, Nose, and Throat Services at UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside ranks among the best nationally on U.S. News & World Report’s listings. Our team includes board-certified physicians and highly skilled speech-language pathologists and audiologists. We treat a variety of ear, nose, and throat conditions in both children and adults and provide both surgical and non-surgical options. Our doctors also take part in research and clinical trials. We have locations throughout western Pennsylvania for patient convenience.