Hearing loss can be inherited from family members, but the most common cause is aging. It is believed that people’s hearing decreases with age due to a lifetime of exposure to noise, and it effects 360 million people in the world, according to the World Health Organization.
Hearing loss or damaged hearing is common, but little research has been done to see how it affects the Latino community in the United States. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) published a study in May, 2015 detailing how hearing loss effects Latinos. The NIH found that Puerto Ricans have the highest rate of hearing loss, and Mexican-Americans have the lowest rate.
The NIH studied communities in New York, Chicago, Miami and San Diego to see how Latinos are affected by hearing loss. Over 16,000 Latinos were surveyed, and participants were diverse, coming from backgrounds of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican and Dominican descent. The NIH examined people ages 18 to 74 years for the study.
The study concluded that hearing loss is common in older Latino communities, but other factors besides noise exposure contribute to the problem. The NIH found that socioeconomic factors and lack of education led to hearing loss in Latino communities.
“Hearing loss is far more than a nuisance. It can affect almost all aspects of life, often impacting a person’s overall enjoyment and quality of life, academic and career status and success, mental health, and aspects of physical health. Ignoring concerns about hearing can come with costs far greater than the price of treatment,” Gail J. Richard, President of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association said in a release.
The World Health Organization believes that not addressing hearing loss causes a loss of $750 worldwide. The estimation accounts for factors like loss of productivity and societal costs. The organization believes that education and accommodating the needs of people with hearing loss will drop unemployment rates.
Hearing loss can completely affect one’s life, but half of all hearing loss scenarios can be prevented. Simple things like getting immunized for diseases like measles and mumps can help drop the risk of hearing loss. Other things like avoiding loud noises and not smoking also prove effective against fighting hearing loss.
“Once you lose your hearing it won’t come back. Taking simple preventive actions will allow people to continue to enjoy themselves without putting their hearing at risk,” Etienne Krug, World Health Organization Director for the Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention said in a release.
Last month, iHEAR Medical announced that the Food and Drug Administration approved of its home-hearing assessment kit. The kit was designed to give people an affordable and accessible hearing screening kit.
“The future of screening diagnostics is being driven by consumers who want to take many routine assessments in the privacy of their home. Its now recommended that adults the age of 40 years old screen their hearing annually,” John Luna, CEO of iHEAR Medical said.