Hearing loss is common as we age. In fact, one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. Presbycusis or age-related hearing loss usually comes on gradually. However, difficulty in hearing can also result from other health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, ear infections such as otitis media, and even certain medications. Losing hair cells (sensory receptors in the inner ear) is also a contributing factor. While a loss of hearing makes people feel more socially isolated, it can also be a factor in cognitive decline. Studies show that older adults with hearing problems have a greater risk of developing dementia while memory and concentration decline faster as well. Unfortunately, hearing loss is not reversible, but it’s often treatable. That’s why FirstLantic wants to make sure that you recognize the early signs of hearing loss and can get treatment as soon as possible.
Recognize and Acknowledge the Signs:
As hard as it may be to admit that you need help, don’t wait. The more you procrastinate, the greater your chances of the situation getting worse. You should get a regular check-up once a year regardless, but if you have any of the following signs, don’t wait and see your doctor immediately.
- Trouble hearing over the phone
- Often ask others to repeat themselves
- Difficulty following conversations when two or more people are talking
- Problems hearing because of background noise
- Can’t hear high-pitched sounds
- Speech of others sounds mumbled or slurred
- Men’s voices are easier to hear than women’s or children’s
- Some sounds seem overly loud and annoying
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) may occur in one or both ears
The type of treatment depends on several factors, your age, overall health, other physical conditions, and the severity of your hearing loss. Fortunately, there are numerous options which include;
- Unique mobile phones and apps
- Alerting systems can work with doorbells, smoke detectors, and alarm clocks to send you visual signals or vibrations.
- Lip reading or speech reading is another option taught by specialists.
- Hearing Aids – with hearing aids, there are many varieties, so before you buy, find out if your health insurance will cover the cost and whether you can have a free trial period. (Read the NIDCD fact sheet on Hearing Aids for more information.) Types of hearing assistance aids include;
- Cochlear implants. Cochlear implants are small electronic devices surgically implanted in the inner ear that helps provide some sound to profoundly deaf or hearing impaired people. (Read the NIDCD fact sheet on cochlear implants for more information.)
- Bone anchored hearing systems bypass the ear canal and middle ear and use your body’s natural ability to transfer sound through bone conduction.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids are a new category of regulated hearing devices that adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss will be able to buy without a prescription. OTC hearing aids are expected to become available in stores in 2022, and there are already options available to buy online.
How to Prevent Hearing Loss from Getting Worse As We Age
- Avoid loud noises and reduce noise exposure.
- Wear earplugs or a special fluid-filled earmuff (to prevent further hearing damage).
- Ask your doctor to examine your ears for excessive wax or fluid buildup, which can block sounds.
- Consult with a medical professional if you notice a hearing problem while taking a medication. “Ototoxic” medications can damage the inner ear, sometimes permanently. Some ototoxic drugs include medicines used to treat serious infections, cancer, and heart disease. Some antibiotics are also ototoxic, and even aspirin can cause problems for some people.
The NIDCD also supports research on the causes of age-related hearing loss and prevention treatments. And scientists are exploring the possibility of regrowing new hair cells in the inner ear as well as conducting studies on medications that may reduce or prevent noise-induced and age-related hearing loss.
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You Can Find Out More Information About Hearing Loss Through the Resources Below.
Hearing Loss Association of America