According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Commucation Disorders (NIDCD) about one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those 75 and older have difficultly hearing. This can make it hard for seniors to “understand and follow a doctor’s advice, to respond to warnings, and to hear doorbells and alarms.” Difficultly hearing also makes it hard for many elderly people to follow and engage in conversation with their family and friends.
Known as presbycusis, hearing loss in seniors generally occurs gradually and initially affects the ability to hear higher pitched sounds. The person may notices that while the speech is loud enough, it sounds as if the talker is mumbling. The condition is commonly caused by the loss of nerve hair cells in the Cochlea or the deterioration of other parts of the inner ear or auditory nerves. Age-related hearing loss typically affect both ears equally.
In some cases, health conditions more common among the elderly such as high blood pressure and diabetes can additionally affect hearing. Furthermore certain medications including some types of chemotherapy drugs can cause hearing loss.
The NIDCD has a checklist to help seniors determine if they are experiencing hearing problems. Questions include: Do you feel frustrated when talking to members of your family because you have difficulty hearing them?; Do you have difficulty hearing when someone speaks in a whisper?; and Do you feel restricted or limited by a hearing problem?
Another cause of hearing loss can be the result of long-term exposure to loud noise and is one of the most common occupational hazards. The exposure damages the sensory hair cells in the ears, which do not grow back. It is estimated that 10 million Americans have irreversible hearing loss due to long-term exposure to noise.
Seniors should discuss any hearing problems with their health care provider who will refer them to an otolaryngologist who specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases of the ear, nose, throat, and neck. The otolarynogogist will test your hearing, and if a problem is found, will refer you on to an audiologist who will determine the type and degree of hearing loss. Either they or a hearing aid specialist will fit you for a hearing aid.
This blog is for informational purposes only. For any health issues and concerns, please consult your health care provider.
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