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The WHO Release New Forecasts For Hearing Loss by 2050

The World Health Organization (WHO) just released new forecasts for hearing loss rates worldwide, and the numbers are concerning.

WHO reports that by 2050, an estimated 900 million people around the world will have a disabling hearing loss. That’s a 93 percent increase from the 466 million people who experience significant hearing problems today.

What’s behind the increase? The majority of those with hearing loss are older adults, and that population is growing, WHO reports.

Other hearing-harming culprits include exposure to loud sounds from personal audio devices such as smartphones and iPods, rock concerts, loud bars, and noisy workplaces; the side effects of certain medications; ear infections; and the persistence worldwide of illnesses such as measles, mumps, and rubella. 

Some of these risk factors may affect younger people. For instance, a WHO report from 2015 found that almost half of those between ages 12 and 35 crank up their personal audio devices to unsafe levels.

“Hearing loss is generally seen as a regular part of aging, but now we’re starting to recognize it as a big problem” for everyone, says Paul Dybala, Ph.D., an audiologist and president of Healthy Hearing, a website devoted to educating people on hearing issues. 

Hearing loss can severely hamper your ability to communicate, work, and socialize, and and can be costly, since many insurance plans in the U.S. don’t cover the costs of hearing aids (which typically start at around $1,650 each).

Research also indicates that hearing loss in older people might be linked to cognitive decline, which can increase the risk of depression and, possibly, dementia. 

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