Age related hearing loss is a natural and gradual demise in hearing ability that affects individuals from as early as in their mid 40s, but far more common in the over 65s. If you care for an elderly person, it is important to understand the cause and symptoms of age related hearing loss as, if left unmanaged, it can lead to well documented negative consequences including personality changes and mood as well as depression and isolation. Healthy communication with the people around us is paramount to our mental state of well being.
Age Related Hearing Loss Cause:
Hearing ability is naturally a complex process that involves capturing sensory triggers that are quickly interpreted by the brain. Our inner ear contains many thousands of tiny hair cells that capture sound in the form of waves and vibrations in the ear that are sent to the brain. As we mature and due to physiological changes, some hair cells may become damaged or die. The outcome is a growing difficulty to hear certain frequencies of sound. These hair cells cannot regenerate, so any loss of hearing is permanent and should be managed rather than left to worsen or accepted as a given reality.
Symptoms of Age Related Hearing Loss:
Traditionally the gradual deterioration in hearing ability spreads over many years making it difficult to notice at first. The precise level of hearing loss is often influenced by contributing factors such as family history (evidence suggests a link with family history of hearing loss), unprotected exposure to harmful sounds over years (known as noise-induced hearing loss or NIHL), medical conditions such as diabetes, certain pharmaceutical drugs and even smoking has been identified as a contributing factor. Typical symptoms will comprise of:
- Certain sounds seem too loud
- Difficulty hearing sound in noisy environment
- High-pitched sounds such as “s” or “th” are hard to distinguish from one another
- Men’s voices are easier to hear than women’s.
- Other people’s voices sound mumbled or slurred
- Ringing in the ears
- Inability to hear certain devices such as a telephone set to a previously comfortable volume
Treatment and Courses Of Action:
If you care for an elderly loved one who you suspect might be displaying the symptoms of hearing loss, your first step should be to arrange a hearing test at your local hearing center or hospital. The non-intrusive test is often free and will help determine the precise cause and therefore the precise treatment for the loss of hearing. In the vast number of cases, assistive listening devices are prescribed to help manage the condition so its effect on daily lives is limited.
Common ALD (assistive listening devices) include digital hearing aids, amplified cell and desk telephones, personal amplification and alerting devices. These are all tasked with helping the elderly hard of hearing to retain a high level of communication and quality of life.
Written by Gary Hill of Hearing Direct Ltd. Gary has been a director at Hearing Direct for many years, a company that offers information on hearing loss as well as amplified products for the deaf, hard of hearing and the elderly.