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increase in deafness in the population

Loud noises are the main cause of the increase in hypoacusis or deafness in the population, both from living in the city and from the use of devices. Hearing loss is increasingly being detected at earlier ages.

According to experts, the problem is increasing: 3 inhabitants out of 4 of large cities suffer some kind of deafness from exposure to shrill noises and 1 out of 10 will end up deaf within 30 years if risk factors are not modified.

The 73 National Congress of the Spanish Society of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Cancer (SEORL-CCC), held in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, brought together more than 1,500 otolaryngologists and head and neck surgeons, who discussed the latest developments in the field and the proposals aimed at alleviating the appearance of hearing problems .

Factors that favor the increase of deafness

EFEsalut speaks with Xabier Altuna, head of the Otorhinolaryngology Service at the Donostia University Hospitalwho reviews the risk factors associated with the increase in deafness in the population.

the noise

Mainly responsible for the current problems.

The concept of “noise” is usually associated with any sound that exceeds 90 decibels (dB), being considered intense above 100 dB. Of course, that sound is also noise that, despite only reaching 80 dB, lasts over time, in the same way that we can talk about intense noise if, being at 90 dB, it lasts for a few minutes.

In this sense, it is inevitable to draw a relational line between type of life and deafness. Because the area in which we move will condition our situation.

“Life in the city is much noisier than in the countryside: we have the traffic, the works,” says Dr. Altuna.

Exposure to noise can result in damage to the hair cells in the inner ear.

Misuse of devices

Listening to music at full volume is very dangerous.

Although perceived as something harmless and ignored because of no short-term consequences, it is a real problem.

What’s more, according to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, people aged 12 to 35 in middle- and high-income countries use audio devices at unsafe levels.

“They start to pay attention when, after a very prolonged exposure, they suffer a tinnitus or tinnitus, that is, a whistling in the ear”, says the otorhinolaryngologist.

EFE/Sebastiao Moreira


They can affect the inner ear.

Certain drugs can alter the state of our inner ear. This will depend on the dose, length of treatment, genetic predisposition, etc. Therefore, we must be aware of the contraindications of medicines.


It does not have the transcendence of the other two, but it influences them.

Although there are not many studies, food, despite not having the same weight as noise in terms of the increase in population deafness, is still an important factor.

In this sense, the doctor Luis Lassaletta, president of the SEORL-CCC Otology Commission talks about poor nutrition as an influential factor in hypoacusis.

And it is that foods with a high sugar content and alcoholic beverages are associated with age-related hearing loss. In the same vein, obesity, hypertension, increased cholesterol or diabetes are also related to deafness.

Can the damage be reversed?

Damages can to prevent, fundamentally avoiding exposure to noise. This is what Dr. Xabier Altuna has pointed out. But in terms of reversibility, he is more cautious.

“If it is very recent damage, it can be reversed with anti-inflammatories, the so-called steroids, in the event that it is diagnosed immediately”, he points out.

But when we talk about chronic, long-term damage, the opposite is more common. This is why the expert emphasizes the importance of prevention campaigns.


Dr. Luis Lassaletta assures that hearing loss is classified as the third cause of years lived with disability, after back pain and migraine. A reality that affects so many must be seen from another perspective.

Although the tips are obvious, it should be noted that we must:

  • Protect ourselves from noise at work or concerts.
  • Avoid prolonged use of audio players.

Other realities of deafness

But beyond conditioning factors that can be avoided, early treatment is also worth noting: And the fact is that in children almost 60% of cases of hearing loss could be prevented with an early detection of otitis media or through vaccination against rubella and meningitis.

Five out of every thousand babies suffer from some type of deafness, which in Spain amounts to a figure of 1890 children with hearing conditions per year. In addition, 80% of childhood deafness is present from birth (congenital, mostly).

So that hypoacusis is not limiting…

the doctor Isabel García López, secretary of SEORL-CCCwarns of the importance of going to an otorhinolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon to ensure that hearing loss is not so limiting for everyday life.

To alleviate hearing loss, hearing aids and cochlear implants improve the patient’s quality of life, although in some cases a highly complex surgery is required.

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