Today, March 3 is World Hearing Day. Every year on March 3, the World Health Organization (WHO) promotes World Hearing Day to raise awareness about disabling hearing loss. This year’s theme is:
Hearing for life: Don’t let hearing loss limit you
Hearing Loss that is not Treated Costs about 750 billion Dollars Worldwide every Year
According to the Statement for World Hearing Day by Dr. Debara Tucci the Director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), about 466 million adults and children worldwide suffer from disabling hearing loss. Hearing loss that is not properly treated costs about US $750 billion dollars worldwide every year.
Hearing Loss has Bad Effect on the Quality of Life
Hearing loss has a bad effect on the quality of life, as it greatly disrupts physical, behavioral and social functioning. In fact, some research shows that hearing loss is an increased risk for dementia.
How Hearing Loss may Increase the Risk for Dementia
Some researchers think that hearing loss puts an undue strain on the brain, as the person is always struggling to hear properly and this contributes to dementia.
Some think that a common physical problem like a virus or high blood pressure causes both hearing loss and memory loss.
Hearing loss leads to social isolation and this can contribute to dementia. This also impacts on quality of life if someone cannot hear the phone or door bell ringing, or someone knocking at the door. Hearing loss also affects a person’s ability to listen to the radio or television.
When people cannot hear normal sounds they are more and more in a world of silence and this can sometimes cause them to hear audio hallucinations, which can push them over the edge to dementia.
Hearing loss may affect the structure of the brain in a negative way.
Genes may play a role in both dementia and hearing loss.
Hearing Loss Affects People of all Ages
Hearing loss affects people of all ages. Some hearing loss in infants is genetic. Some hearing loss is caused by loud noise and some is age-related:
Age related hearing loss
Most hearing loss in seniors is due to aging and is called presbycusis. According to the NIDCD, presbycusis is one of the most common age-related problems that afflict seniors. It is estimated that one in three seniors in the United States aged 65-74 have some hearing loss. Almost half of American seniors over age 74 have problems with hearing. You can read more about age-related hearing loss in our blog post from August 2, 2019.
Possible Breakthrough in Treatment for Age-related Hearing Loss
A study published September 30, 2018 in the European Journal of Neuroscience focuses on a possible major breakthrough that could restore hearing loss in seniors. This could be a benefit to more than 40 million American seniors who have experienced hearing loss. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center discovered a way to re-grow sensory hair cells in the cochlea. The cochlea is the part of the inner ear that enables us to hear properly. Noise and aging can permanently damage the hair cells in the cochlea and this results in hearing loss. Mammals cannot regrow sensory hair cells like other animals do such as birds, frogs and fish.
A previous study at the University of Rochester Medical Center discovered in 2012 that birds have epidermal growth factor (EGF) sensors and this can help the birds restore damaged hair cells in their ears. The researchers searched for a way to use EGF in mammals and succeeded with mice. The scientists succeeded to re-grow sensory hair cells in the lab and also in newly born mice.
Now the hope is that this technique may also work in humans and help to restore hearing loss.
Do you Need a Hearing Test?
The NIDCD Offers a simple quiz to see if you need a hearing test.
Hopefully, this research will lead to a way to treat hearing loss.