Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is the loss of hearing that gradually occurs in most of us as we grow older. It is one of the most common conditions affecting older adults.
There are many causes of age-related hearing loss. Most commonly, it is due to changes in the ear as we age, or from changes along the nerve pathways from the ear to the brain. Conditions that are more common in older people, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, can contribute to hearing loss. Medications that are toxic to the sensory cells in your ears can also cause hearing loss. Most older people who experience hearing loss have a combination of both age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss.
Can we prevent age-related hearing loss?
Currently, we do not know of a way to prevent hearing loss. However, if you avoid exposure to loud noises and protect your ears with ear plugs or ear muffs when exposed to loud noises (like heavy machinery, lawn mowers, snow mobiles) you can protect your hearing and limit the amount of hearing you might lose as you get older.
What to do if you have trouble hearing:
The most important thing you can do if you think you have a hearing problem is to seek advice from a health care provider. Hearing problems can get worse if they are ignored, or left untreated.
It would be best to start with a visit to your family physician. Your family physician can refer you to a ENT (Ear-Nose-Throat) specialist, or an audiologist.
The ENT specialist will try to find out why you're having trouble hearing and offer treatment options. They might also refer you to an audiologist.
An audiologist has specialized training in identifying and measuring the type and degree of hearing loss. Some audiologists may be licensed to fit hearing-aids.
A hearing-aid specialist can evaluate basic hearing tests, offer counselling, and fit and test hearing-aids.
If you have hearing loss, there are a number of different devices and aids that can help you hear. Your hearing-aid specialist will recommend suitable options.
What can I do if I am diagnosed with hearing loss?
There are ways to make living with hearing loss easier. Here are some things you can do:
- Tell others about your hearing loss. The more people you tell, the more people there will be to help you cope with your hearing loss.
- Ask people to face you when they talk so that you can see their faces and try to read their lips. This could help you understand them better.
- Ask people to speak louder and clearer, but not shout.
- Try to minimize the presence of background noise like the TV or the radio when you aren't actively watching/listening to them. This will make it easier for you to follow a conversation with another person.
Older adults who can’t hear well may become depressed, or may withdraw from social interactions because they feel frustrated or embarrassed about not understanding or participating in a conversation. Sometimes, older people are mistakenly thought to be confused, unresponsive, or uncooperative because they can’t hear well. If you are a caregiver, and notice such behaviour, be sure to rule out hearing loss as a cause.
I can imagine how challenging it can be to live with hearing loss. At in4MED, we can make this stressful time easier by connecting you to local support systems and being there for you as your trusted health advocates. As always, feel free to connect with me or leave a comment.
Healthcare Consultant, in4MED
Deafness and hearing loss - WHO https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss
Hearing Foundation of Canada http://www.hearingfoundation.ca/hearing-loss/
The author of this blog post is a Physician with over 10 years of experience working in the healthcare system as a clinician, researcher and educator. She is passionate about healthcare for older adults and strives to be a resourceful inspiration to caregivers.
*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.