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Understanding Hearing Loss in Adults

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Hearing loss in adults is more common than one may think and doctors say there are some simple tips to reduce your risk. NY1's Jill Urban filed the following report.

It’s the third most common physical condition after arthritis and heart disease. Hearing loss affects 48 million adults in the United States.

"Over the age of 65 maybe a quarter of Americans will have some degree of hearing loss. Over the age of 75, up to half," says Dr. Samuel Selesnick of New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Dr. Selesnick is the Vice Chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center. He says hearing loss can be caused by a number of different things, like excessive noise, age deterioration or even genetics. There are two main types of hearing loss.

"Conductive losses are losses where sound isn't carried from the outside world, not conducted inward, such as with earwax or fluid behind the ear, or a hole in the eardrum or otosclerosis where the bones don't vibrate. A nerve type hearing loss means sound gets in ok, but little hair cell nerve endings in the inner ear aren’t working well," explains Dr. Selesnick.

And those are usually caused by noise induced or age associated loss. Hearing loss can be a loss of clarity or volume and in some cases the initial signs are not obvious. Sometimes it’s the people around you that may notice first. Other times it's more the evident.

“People notice difficulty hearing in crowds, they may also have difficulty hearing just with another individual; that clearly is more pronounced. They can have ringing inside the ear and sometimes they need to have visual contact to be able see other individuals," says Dr. Selesnick.

As for prevention, the easiest one to control is noise related hearing loss. He says we should be conscious to protect our ears in noisy environments and watch the volume when using earbuds.

Now aside from noise reduction, the best thing we can do to help prevent hearing loss is to leave our ears alone. We don’t need to clean them regularly. Our ears are like a self-cleaning oven and the wax will eventually come out, but those cotton swabs can actually do more harm than good.

If you suspect you may have hearing loss in both or even one ear, you should see a specialist and undergo a hearing test. Hearing aids, medications or even surgery can often treat these conditions. But don’t wait, because putting it off can only amplify the problem.

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