World Hearing Day: Protect Your Ears!

Hearing loss can start at an early age...and impact other areas of you health. NBC's Dan Scheneman reports.

(NBC News) — For the past year, our health has been thrust to the forefront as we analyze every cough, sniffle and headache. But what about our ears?

It’s estimated that 15 percent of people over the age of 12 can have hearing loss in the United States. That’s more than 30 million people.

Early signs of hearing loss can be subtle; the TV turned up too loud, muffled noises or difficulty understanding.

“Some people will find that they just have to concentrate more, like they might have to lean in, or they might just have to focus more or they may find themselves just exhausted at the end of the day,” says Cleveland Clinic Neurotoligist Dr. Erika Woodson.

While some hearing loss can’t be prevented, there are things you can do to protect yourself, like limiting the amount of time you wear earbuds or a headset, and the reducing the audio level of what you’re listening to.

Hearing loss can also affect your physical health.

“I’ll tell people as if it’s heart healthy, it’s ear healthy because it’s been shown that many of the things which affect heart health like high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes also influenced how much the ears age over time,” Dr. Woodson says.

Being able to hear is vital to mental health as well.

“People with greater degrees of hearing loss have higher risk of depression and anxiety because it is very socially isolating,” Dr. Woodson adds.

Experts say most people don’t turn to hearing devices because it’s, on average, six years before they notice their hearing has diminished.

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