Age related hearing loss or presbyacusis as it is known in medical circles affects the lives of over 35 million Americans. Many individuals, in particular, those over the age of 65 who experience hearing loss choose to simply ‘live with it’ though there are plenty of means to manage the condition so quality of life does not have to deteriorate. Maintaining a high quality of life is the reason why healthcare providers make attempts to increase the awareness of hearing loss and offer a wide range of means to manage the condition.
The Causes Of Hearing Loss:
There are a few common causes for ‘hearing loss’ as a whole. The reasons and therefore the means to treat hearing loss vary. In the case of hearing loss of the age related type, causes are almost always natural and will likely affect each and every one of us to a certain degree. In some cases it will be more severe and noticeable, in others just an inconvenience.
Our ability to hear is aided by tiny hair like cells that reside within the inner ear. These are tasked with capturing waves of sound in a wide spectrum of frequencies. As we grow older (and wiser!) these hair cells can deteriorate, die or become damaged and the result is a diminished ability to capture certain frequencies. Gradual loss of hearing due to aging starts from a person’s 40s, though often becomes more apparent in the over 65’s. The inner ear is unable to regrow these hair cells naturally and the result is hearing loss of various degrees. The ‘degree’ (measured in decibels vs. normal hearing) will vary from one person to the next based on the amount of inner ear hair cells that are damaged, family history, other medical conditions and exposure to loud noise over the years (NIHS – Noise Induced Hearing Loss). Age related hearing loss is completely natural and ignoring it is both unfortunate and can directly impact your quality of life.
Signs Of Age Related Hearing Loss:
Any concern you may have with regards to your hearing (as well as other medical conditions) should always be addressed with your healthcare provider, most commonly a family doctor as a first point of call.
Age related hearing loss will usually affect both ears to a similar degree, however because the process is gradual it is sometimes tricky to notice the difference. Overall, it is most difficult to hear high-frequency sounds, such as someone talking (particularly small children and women’s voices). As hearing loss develops it may become difficult to hear sounds at lower pitches. Common symptoms include:
· A growing difficulty to hear in a noisy environment
· High-pitched sounds such as “s” or “th” are hard to distinguish from one another
· Certain sounds seem overly loud
Managing Hearing Loss:
As with any medical condition, a medical diagnosis from a health provider should be carried out. In this case it will take the shape of a hearing test. The test will normally take the form of pure tone based test and may include a speech-in-noise check that uses different types of background noise.
A hearing test is available to book from your local hearing center and from your family doctor (in its basic form). Once the precise cause and level of hearing loss is determined you will be offered a number of options that work on the principal of managing the condition using modern digital means.
The most common are hearing aids, a group of microcomputers that fit inside or outside the wearer’s ear and are tasked with amplifying external sound. Another group comprise of daily devices that have been adopted for use by the hard of hearing. Examples include amplified phones as well as cell phones, amplified alarms and aids designed to amplify the sound of a TV unit. Good results often come from using a number of aids as each is slightly better suited for a particular situation.