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Hearing Loss and Tinnitus
Hearing loss is one of the most common chronic conditions in older adults, with an estimated 36 million Americans reporting some degree of hearing impairment (Nash 2011; Mayo Clinic 2011). Next to arthritis, it is the second most common handicapping condition (Bielefeld 2010; NIHSenior Health 2012). Although hearing loss is more common with age, approximately 8.5% of American adults aged 20 to 29 have significant hearing loss, a number that appears to be rising (Agrawal 2008).
Hearing loss and a related condition, tinnitus or “ringing in the ears”, can become severe obstacles in communicating and interacting with others, contributing to poor quality of life. Moreover, hearing loss can lead to reduced neurologic activity in the parts of the brain that process speech, and atrophy in the parts that process sound in general (Samson 2001; Peelle 2011; Dalton 2003).