Hearing loss refers to the condition where a person affected gradually loses his/her hearing. The normal hearing threshold of a person is 0-25 dB (decibels). This means that people whose hearing threshold is more than 25 decibels have hearing loss. While people of any age may get hearing loss, seniors are more susceptible to getting one.
The most common type of hearing loss among senior citizens is called Presbycusis. 1 out of every 3 older adults experiences this type of hearing loss. Presbycusis refers to the gradual loss of hearing among seniors, and because the effect is gradual, hearing loss might not be detected during the initial stages of the condition.
Hearing Loss Signs and Symptoms
People suffering from age-related hearing loss may experience:
- Difficulty comprehending conversations in a noisy environment
- “S” and “TH” sounds are hard to distinguish from one another
- Some sounds seem too loud
- Ringing in the ears/tinnitus
- Turning the volume up louder than normal
Possible causes of hearing loss include:
- Age - This is one of the common causes of hearing loss. It’s because as you age, there will be changes in various parts of your body including the parts of your ear such as the inner ear, the middle part of the ear, or the nerve pathways in your ear.
- Consistent exposure to loud noises - Being consistently exposed to loud noises like music from your headphones or loud noises in your workplace will have long-term effects on the quality of your hearing.
- Haircell loss - Hair cells are the tiny hairs in your ear that are responsible for the transmission of sounds to the brain. When these hair cells are damaged, it affects the transmission of sounds leading to hearing loss. People over 65 are prone to have damaged hair cells making it hard for them to hear.
- Genetic/Hereditary factors - Some hearing loss conditions are hereditary. If your family has a history of hearing loss, then there’s a high chance you’ll eventually have it too.
- Existing conditions like diabetes and heart disease - People with existing Diabetes or heart disease are also at risk of hearing loss. Other heart conditions, ear infections, brain injury, or tumors are also some underlying causes of hearing loss.
- Side effects of existing medications - Any medication that damages sensory cells in the ears is considered ototoxic. Several types of antibiotics used to treat various infections, heart diseases, and tumors are examples of ototoxic medications.
Generally, there are 2 types of hearing loss:
- Sensorineural - This is a permanent hearing loss usually caused by damaged auditory nerves or parts of the inner ear. The damage in the ear may be due to genetics or exposure to loud noises.
- Conductive - Unlike sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss can be treated by medications or surgery. This type of hearing loss is caused by a punctured eardrum or earwax build-up.
In diagnosing, your doctor may examine the outer and inner parts of your ears using an otoscope. This lighted scope is specifically used to check various parts of the ear including the eardrums. With this tool, your doctor will determine if there is damage to your eardrums, compacted earwax, inflammation, or infection.
To further examine your ear, a hearing specialist may conduct an audiogram test. This test is used to examine your hearing by playing certain sounds through headphones for you to hear. People with hearing loss will have difficulty hearing certain sounds from the test.
Factors to Consider in Finding Treatments
After going through several tests, your doctor will then determine the most appropriate treatment for your hearing loss based on these factors:
- Your age
- The severity of hearing loss
- Medical history and health
- Suitability to treatments, medications, and therapies
- Your preference views
Below are some treatment options you and your doctor might talk about:
These are electronic devices that make the sound you hear louder. Hearing aids have many types, and to ensure that you are buying the most suitable hearing aid, you can ask for assistance from your doctor. Consulting an audiologist before making a decision is a good choice as well.
It might also help you save some dollars if your hearing aid can be covered by your insurance. Organizations such as the National Health Service also provide free hearing aids to deserving individuals.
Assistive tools like telephone amplifiers and text-to-speech technology are also a good choices for some people with hearing loss. The most common type of assistive hearing device is the hearing loop, which provides effective and ergonomic hearing assistance. For just a few setups, the device can provide clear customized sounds to your ear. Most people with hearing loss even prefer hearing loops as it is considered the most practical tool for hearing loss.
Speech-reading or known as lip-reading refers to the practice that involves observing the movement of the lips to understand what the speaker is saying. People with hearing loss can learn how to speech-read through training and practice. Talk to your doctor if you’re interested in learning the skill.
Excess Wax Prevention Techniques
There are different techniques to avoid earwax accumulation. One of the easiest, and recommended techniques is to avoid sticking anything on your ears and use only cotton swabs to clean them. Some people need to visit their health care provider regularly for clean-up sessions.
There are cases where hearing loss is inevitable, however, there are still practices you can do to lessen your risk of hearing loss:
- Avoid exposure to loud sounds
- Wear ear protection whenever necessary
- Monitor and avoid ototoxic medications
- Regular ear check-ups especially for people who have a history of hearing loss
- Monitor blood sugar levels
Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions that older adults experience. Hearing is part of our 5 senses, which plays a vital role in our life. Losing this sense will affect one’s understanding and comprehension, which will also have a major impact on one’s daily living. Though the condition may be inevitable, it's still important to know some prevention techniques.