Hearing loss: age timeline

If you’ve come to realize that your hearing is not what it was but think you are too young for hearing loss, it’s important to know that hearing loss can happen at any age. While hearing loss is often associated with people aged over 65, there are other factors besides age that can come into play when you begin to lose your hearing.

Regardless of your age, if you suspect your hearing has changed, then it’s important to have a hearing test with a licensed hearing care professional – they will be able to evaluate your hearing and determine the best treatment for you. If they recommend hearing aids, then they will discuss the different types of hearing aids available that could help improve your hearing.

Hearing loss timeline

Babies

You started developing your hearing while you were still in the womb and here you would have already been able to recognize your mother’s voice before you were born. As a newborn, your ears will have been filled with fluid and your hearing not yet fully developed. However, you would have still been able to hear loud noises, lullabies being sung to you and the noise of what’s going on around you. Hearing plays a significant part in our language awareness and development, which is why babies are born with their hearing intact.

Toddlers and young children

When you start to grow into a toddler and young child, your hearing will grow and develop with you. You will be able to decipher sounds and syllables which will help to strengthen your understanding of tone and language. It’s not long before you will be able to speak and communicate with those around you. But if you have an acquired or congenital hearing loss, this will impact childhood speech and language development.

Teenagers

Once you hit your teenage years, your auditory processing matures. You will start to develop a preference in music and by now you should have a good grasp of spoken language. It’s during your late teens that hearing swaps from development to deterioration, although you won’t have noticed any change whatsoever. As long as you don’t experience any noise-related hearing loss during this time, such as from a loud sound or car accident, for example, your hearing should be in its prime by the time you hit 18 years old.

Twenties

Entering into adulthood, your early 20s will likely be your best years for hearing. If you have healthy hearing then you will be able to hear a pin drop. You will have no problems with maintaining and following conversations in a noisy and crowded room. As long as you have no other issues that could affect your hearing, you should not have many problems hearing and understanding other people. Once you hit your mid-20s, then your hearing will likely start to deteriorate, but most people won’t notice any difference at all.

Fifties onwards

When you will begin have trouble with your hearing will largely depend on your lifestyle. Everyone’s hearing is different, but most people will start to lose their hearing from the age of 50. However, some people who have very good hearing that has been well protected, might not notice any problems at all until they are well into their 60s. But it’s worth remembering that if you have lived a noisy lifestyle, you may start noticing issues as early as your mid-30s or even earlier. This can be musicians, people who served in the military or construction workers.

Age-related hearing loss

Most adults begin to lose their hearing around the age of 65, although this can vary. Hearing loss is a natural part of getting older. As you age, the hair cells in your inner ear start to die, which aren’t replaced by new hair cells. So when more and more of your hair cells die, then your hearing will continue to get worse. Age-related hearing loss, or sensorineural hearing loss, can be caused by:

  • Prolonged exposure to loud noise (machinery, gunfire, loud music)
  • Smoking
  • Medical conditions
  • Medications
  • Genetics

Extremely high rates of exposure to noise can result in you losing your hearing as early as in your 20s.

When will you lose your hearing?

It’s impossible to know when you will start to lose your hearing and at what degree – it largely depends on a number of lifestyle factors along with genetics. Therefore, regular consultations with an audiologist are crucial for maintaining your hearing health. Most hearing loss is gradual and almost impossible to detect when it first begins.

If hearing loss is common in your family, then this could mean you are more likely to develop age-related hearing loss. While many factors may influence age-related hearing loss, once you lose your hearing, it’s then permanent.

With you on your journey to better hearing.

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