Gradually diminishing hearing or age-related hearing loss is a common problem for individuals over 65. It is a condition referred to as presbycusis, and one out of every three older adults experience some level of hearing loss. Because it is so gradual, the person may not even be aware of the issue until someone else points it out or realizes the frequency of asking “What?” increases.
Hearing loss is not a reversible condition. If you suddenly experience hearing loss, seek help from your health care provider immediately. Also, do your best to limit your exposure to continuous loud noises.
Hearing loss usually affects hearing high-pitched noises, such as the microwave beeping or the telephone ringing.
Hearing loss can make a person feel isolated and misunderstood. Often, there is a sense of shame associated with being hard of hearing. Some individuals who cannot hear well can be misdiagnosed with dementia because they don’t report the hearing loss and misunderstand conversations. Going out for a family dinner and not hearing the discussions can lead to frustration and depression. Family members may have to raise their voices regularly, leading to a sense of chaos within the home.
Seniors who have hearing loss can start to confuse similar-sounding words or end up guessing based on what they think the words may be, and often they are wrong. Since the person with hearing loss tends to respond in ways that are not harmonious with the other person’s statement, they can be misunderstood as having dementia.
Family members must know that speaking louder does not help the situation, but speaking lower and slower can help.
Research has shown that listening to music can help the hearing impaired.
What Causes Age-Related Hearing loss?
There are various reasons for age-related hearing loss. Most commonly, it occurs because of changes within the middle and inner ear or along the brain’s neural pathways. Constant exposure to loud sounds such as work-related noise or loud music can also contribute to hearing loss. Diabetes and heart disease and the side effects of certain medications, such as antibiotics and aspirin, have also contributed to hearing loss in seniors.
What are the Symptoms of Age-Related Hearing Loss?
The symptoms of age-related hearing loss may look like other medical problems or conditions. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.
- Other people speaking can sound slurred or mumbled
- A letter such as “th” and “s” and high-pitched noises are hard to distinguish
- Can’t understand conversations when there is noise in the background
- Womens’ voices are more difficult to understand than men’s
- Some sounds can be irritating or seem overly loud
- Ringing in the ears (Tinnitus) can occur.
How is Age-Related Hearing Loss Diagnosed?
Your doctor uses a lighted otoscope to examine your eardrum and ear canal, looking for any damage, inflammation, blockage, infection, or impacted ear wax. You may also be prescribed an audiogram to assess the problems or the degree of hearing loss you are suffering. After which, you may be referred to an audiologist or hearing specialist.
Hearing Loss Treatment?
Your doctor will assess the following:
- Your age
- Medical and overall health history
- Severity of problem
- Medication history
- Your preference
Treatment options include:
- Hearing aids
- Amplifiers, speech to text technology, and other assistive devices
- Speech therapy
- Wax buildup prevention techniques
Hearing loss prevention:
- Avoid exposure to loud noises
- Wear ear muffs or earplugs to prevent worsening of your hearing