As we get older, many things about us begin to change physically. Simple tasks that once were easy become difficult. We don’t move as fast as we used to, and our senses seemed to be a bit dulled. One of the main things that tend to go as we get older is our sense of hearing.
Approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss. And nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. However, this may not even be the full statistic, as many will not admit that they have hearing loss.
Not acknowledging or not treating hearing loss can lead to further damage down the road. If you believe you have hearing loss, it is crucial to consult a professional and receive a hearing evaluation immediately.
Older people who can’t hear well may become depressed and even withdraw from others because they feel frustrated or embarrassed about not understanding what’s being said. This can also affect their perception, as older people with hearing loss are mistakenly thought to be confused, unresponsive, or uncooperative.
While the causes of hearing loss may be severe and apparent, the symptoms can sometimes be a bit more unclear. The main symptoms of hearing loss include finding it hard to follow conversations, often asking people to repeat what they are saying, having a problem hearing because of background noise, and thinking others mumble.
Hearing loss comes in many forms. It can range from a mild loss (where a person misses certain high-pitched sounds) to a total loss of hearing.
While hearing loss has different degrees of severity, there are also other types of hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve. This type of hearing loss is usually permanent.
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves cannot reach the inner ear. The cause may be earwax buildup, fluid, or a punctured eardrum. Medical treatment or surgery can usually restore conductive hearing loss.
Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, comes on gradually as a person gets older. This type of hearing loss seems to run in families and may occur because of changes in the inner ear and auditory nerve.
Age-related hearing loss usually occurs in both ears, affecting them equally. The loss is gradual, so someone with presbycusis may not realize that they have lost some of their ability to hear.
A common symptom of those with hearing loss, tinnitus, is also prevalent in those with presbycusis. It’s typically described as ringing in the ears, but it even can sound like roaring, clicking, hissing, or buzzing. Tinnitus can be a constant ringing, or it can come and go.
It might be heard in one or both ears, and it may be loud or soft. Tinnitus can often be the first sign of hearing loss in older adults. Tinnitus can accompany any type of hearing loss and can be a sign of other health problems, such as high blood pressure, allergies, or as a side effect of medications.
But how do people with hearing loss get to that point? While age is undoubtedly a significant factor, there can be other causes of hearing loss. Loud noise is one of the most common reasons for hearing loss. Noise from lawnmowers, snowblowers, or loud music can damage the inner ear, resulting in permanent hearing loss.
Loud noise can also contribute to tinnitus. It is possible to prevent most noise-related hearing loss. It’s essential to protect yourself by turning down the sound on your stereo, television, or headphones, moving away from loud noise, or using earplugs or other ear protection.
A punctured eardrum can also cause hearing loss. The eardrum can be damaged by infection, pressure, or putting objects in the ear, including cotton-tipped swabs.
Health conditions common in older people, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, can contribute to hearing loss. Viruses and bacteria, a heart condition, stroke, brain injury, or a tumor may also affect your hearing.
Hearing loss can also result from taking certain medications. Ototoxic medications damage the inner ear, sometimes permanently. Some ototoxic drugs include medicines used to treat serious infections, cancer, and heart disease. Also, some antibiotics are ototoxic. Even aspirin at some dosages can cause problems.
While this all may seem a bit daunting, the good news is that there are ways to help with hearing loss. Hearing aids, assistive listening devices, mobile apps, alerting devices, and cochlear implants can help many with hearing loss.
The important thing is to find a solution that works for you. While they can be very similar, every case of hearing loss is unique and different. If you believe that you may be suffering from hearing loss, it is essential to consult a hearing professional immediately. Something as simple as taking a quick hearing evaluation could be the difference between improving your quality of life or worsening your hearing loss.