We've known for some time that instances of hearing loss are becoming more common. The world we live in isn't particularly hearing-friendly. Most of us spend our days being exposed to noise levels that, over time, have the very real potential to damage our ears permanently.

As it turns out, the problem might be worse than we initially thought. A recent global survey by YouGov has revealed that in the United States, the number of people with hearing loss aged 20 or older is expected to almost double by 2060. And there's every indication that this trend may even continue afterward.

That's not the only thing the study revealed. In spite of the fact that nearly one in two respondents indicated that hearing loss would negatively impact or already had negatively impacted their quality of life, very few of them prioritized hearing health. This is despite the fact that over half of respondents admitted to getting their teeth, blood pressure, or eyesight checked at some point in the past two years.

In stark contrast, only 15% of respondents scheduled a hearing test.

It's a little strange if you think about it. One of the impacts of COVID-19 is that it's caused many of us to focus far more on our personal health. Everything from diet and exercise to sleep hygiene and general wellness.

Why, then, are so many of us neglecting our ears? What is it about hearing health that sees it playing second fiddle to even dental work? Is the stigma around hearing aids and hearing loss really so great that we avoid even getting a test out of the fear of being diagnosed as hearing impaired?

Or is hearing loss simply easier to ignore than other health conditions?

Either way, something needs to be done about this. We suspect that this upturn in hearing impairment is only the beginning. The problem is very likely going to get worse before it gets better.

Let's talk about what each of us can do to prevent that from happening.

Is There Any Way to Prevent This?

As you've probably guessed, the first and most obvious piece of advice for staving off hearing loss is vigilance. It's important that every adult, no matter their age, schedule a periodic hearing exam. While most conditions that cause hearing impairment are irreversible, many can be mitigated if they're caught early enough.

Beyond that, there are a few things you can do to keep your ears as healthy as possible:

  • Avoid smoking. Cigarettes are proven to cause long-term hearing damage.
  • Eat well, exercise, and do what you can to keep yourself well-rested.
  • If you know you'll be exposed to loud noises or environments bring hearing protection.
  • Wear a headset instead of earbuds, and keep the volume down while you listen to music.
  • Avoid ototoxic medications where possible.
  • Don't stick things in your ears. Not even Q-Tips. Seriously, do not.

Finally, it's important that you train yourself to recognize the warning signs of impaired hearing:

  • You find yourself constantly asking other people to repeat themselves.
  • You struggle to hear someone talking to you on the phone.
  • People have started to complain about how loud the TV is when you're watching, even though the volume level seems normal to you.
  • Persistent tinnitus.
  • Difficulty keeping up with conversations in loud environments.
  • Trouble hearing certain sounds, such as your doorbell.

A Glimmer of Hope

The future isn't all doom and gloom, of course. The YouGov survey was conducted with the assumption that treatment for hearing loss will remain focused exclusively on diagnosing the condition and helping people live with it. However, there are multiple promising studies and treatments that are even now undergoing clinical trials—experimental procedures with the potential to reverse even the most severe cases of hearing impairment.

It may well be that by 2060, those treatments will have passed clinical trials and be available to the general public. Hearing loss could, in the future, be a thing of the past—or at least so easily treatable that it's no longer debilitating. In the meantime, however, take care of your ears.

You only get one pair.