I forgot to mention that this question was from joshuaturbeville, which he posted in a thread on SSD healing. I wanted to move it here, so that people will not overlook this important question. And now to my response...
If you live in a first-world nation, almost certainly the answer is yes. We even have a word for it: presbycusis. If you live in Africa, the research shows that you will likely keep your hearing into old age.
There are several reasons for "age-related" hearing loss, but the main one is noise.
-Hair dryers (ladies, take note--most are loud enough to cause hearing loss over time)
-TV, depending on the volume
The list could definitely go on, but those are the main offenders in everyday life. Check out dangerousdecibelsDOTorg for more info. Occupationally, construction, manufacturing, and military can be heavily exposed to noise.
So.. what to do? Those working in noisy jobs MUST wear hearing protection.
If you have an iPhone, there is a free app called Decibel 10th. It can measure how loud sounds are. Use it to measure how loud your TV is. If it is over 80 dB, turn it down or get a hearing aid. I'm not kidding.
Turn down your iPod. It is probably too loud.
If you go to concerts, bring ear plugs. Use your Decibel 10th app to check the noise level, and it will shock you into stuff those things into your ears faster than you can say... well, it doesn't matter what you say, because you can't hear it at a concert anyway.
Noise is one area where folks with autism may have an advantage over the rest of us. Auditory hypersensitivity means avoiding loud noises. Natural hearing protection!
But sadly, most of us are just too used to noise. And as we lose our hearing slowly, we do not notice it. Then we turn things up, causing further hearing loss. The classic "vicious cycle."
If anyone reads this and gets worried about their hearing, get it checked. Maybe you are turning up your TV more than you did before, you say "what?" often, or people tell you that you talk loudly but you think you sound fine. Call your local hospital and ask for the audiology department. Tell them that you are worried you have lost some hearing. They will hook you up with an audiologist for a quick, pain-free test. You listen to beeps and press a button when you hear them. I would encourage everyone to get a baseline hearing test, which could be compared with future hearing tests to show the beginning of hearing loss--but check with your insurance company to make sure they will pay for it.
Insurance companies will disagree with me, but I believe that hearing tests should be done routinely as we age, similar to mammograms and colonoscopies. You know how we are supposed to have eye tests every year? My opinion is that our hearing should be tested at age 30, 40, 50, 55, 60, and every two years thereafter. Too bad I don't run the world.
However... screenings are easy to do and can be done using a little device called a portable audiometer. The device costs about $1,000 and is user-friendly. I encourage everyone to ask their doctor to purchase one device for the office. There is no reason that a family practice or internal medicine doctor cannot do this as part of a regular checkup every few years.
If you can persuade your doctor to get one, here is what they need to do. Or more likely the nurse--the doctor definitely does not need to do this herself. Plug it in and turn it on. Remember this: R-R. Red on right, blue on left (the headphones). Set the loudness to 25 dB and leave it there. Turn the patient so that they cannot see you. Check each ear at these frequencies: 500 Hz, 1000 Hz, 4000 Hz, 8000 Hz. Note the results in the chart for future comparison. This is pass/fail at each frequency. If someone fails at a frequency, refer to an audiologist.
So, to everyone: get yourself tested if you have seen any small signs of hearing trouble, especially if you have a family history of hearing loss. Get yourself tested if your insurance company will pay for a baseline test. And convince your primary doctor to purchase a portable audiometer for quick screenings in the office.
How's that for a long answer to a short question!
Beachcomber is so right. Do this for your kids and grandkids as well as yourself. You will be able to interact with, and thus be a full part of, your family so much more easily if you preserve your hearing. And your family members (and the rest of the world) will talk to you more because they won't have to constantly make the effort to (1) get your attention, (2) make sure they are in the same room and facing you, (3), speak clearly and loudly with nothing in, or in front of, their mouth; and (4) possibly have to repeat themselves, especially when there's the slightest background noise.
This is what I have to do with my husband all the time, after his years of earplug-less use of lawnmowers, power tools, and now the WORLD'S WORST ENEMY, THOSE INFERNAL LEAF-BLOWERS!! Those things should be BANNED!!
(He did start wearing some hearing protection, at least when I was around to nag him endlessly and "pull the plugs" until he PUT IN the plugs, but it's still spotty at best, and his hearing is still getting worse...)
Hey, how about that for a slogan: "Pull the plug until you put in the plugs!"?
I love that slogan!
Everyone thinks it will never happen to them. Or that it will never get worse. Or that only "old people" use hearing aids.