Hearing loss is a normal part of life as we age. Even though it’s not what anyone wants, finding out why it happens and you can do about it is the best way to have a better hearing, especially as we age.
How does aging affect our hearing?
The medical term for age-related hearing loss is presbycusis. As the years go by, the hair cells in our inner ears slowly start to lose their effectiveness for some people. These types of cells are responsible for converting sound vibrations into information that is then sent to our brains through our neurons.
There are various factors to why we experience hearing loss as we age, and some of them include genetics, loud noises, medications, or any other hearing or medical conditions that affect the blood flow to our ears (oxygen is very important for the health of the hair cells).
Our inner ears are not the only part that is affected by aging, as our outer ears also suffer from some age-related reasons. First and foremost, our ears grow during our whole lives, but this is easily mitigated with the help of hearing aids. However, due to the growth we previously mentioned, the hearing aids might not fit after a while, so at that point you should make an appointment with a healthcare professional and make adjustments accordingly. Another way our outer ears are affected by age is the buildup of earwax in our ear canals. This is a rather common cause for hearing loss which can be easily remedied by cleaning of the ear canals by primary care physicians or hearing care professionals.
When does hearing loss start?
Aging affects not only our inner organs, but our ears as well. While every person will be affected by aging differently, almost everyone gets affected by hearing loss once they reach their 60s, resulting in lower sharpness of hearing. At first, it isn’t noticeable at all, but it will gradually start to affect our everyday conversations with friends and family.
What type of hearing goes away first with aging?
Age-related hearing loss often follows a certain pattern. The first thing that goes away is our ability to hear high frequency sounds, like words that end in “s,” such as ‘this’, ‘was’, ‘thus’, etc., as they are much harder to register than, let’s say, lower frequency sounds, like words that end in “at,” such as ‘that’, ‘what,’ ‘hat’, etc. It is odd, however, you’ll have a much easier time understanding men’s voices, while women’s and children’s’ voices become more muffled for the same exact reason.
Additionally, when you undergo a hearing exam, the audiogram results will show a downward curvature from left to right.
Will I be able to recognize hearing loss?
As we said, hearing loss will most likely happen gradually, and you probably won’t even notice that you’re not registering some sounds or conversations. A good indicator, however, is when your loved ones, friends or colleagues at work joke or make a suggestion you get a hearing aid.
There are also some online hearing tests that will help you determine if you need to see a hearing care professional. Alternatively, there are some common symptoms that might indicate that you are having difficulty hearing:
- Listening to television or radio at a high volume
- Trouble understanding speech, especially in noisy environments
- The perception that others are mumbling
- Difficulty hearing people on the phone
- Often asking people to repeat themselves
- Avoiding social situations
- Exhaustion after attending social events
- Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears
How common is ringing in the ears?
The last symptom of hearing loss we mentioned – tinnitus, is a typical symptom of age-related hearing loss. Therefore, if you have noticed ringing or buzzing sounds for a prolonged period of time, it might be an indicator that you should visit a hearing care professional.
Does hearing loss indicate brain issues?
The brain is in charge of processing the information sent by the ear. While a younger brain is able to sift through the information in much greater speeds, an older brain will have a more difficult task doing so. Older people have a harder time hearing words in a loud surrounding, and some researchers have stated that this happens due to aging, and what aging does to the structure of our brains.
Hearing issues can also lead to various emotional and physical complications for seniors.
What can we do about it?
Aside from hearing aids, hearing loss can be slowed down with early diagnosis and treatment of illnesses that contribute to hearing loss, like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Another way you can help yourself is having a healthy diet, full of vitamins and antioxidants, exercising, and staying away from smoking. There are also some online brain training games, in addition to crosswords or card games that will help your brain stay engaged and active.
If it goes untreated, hearing loss can lead to many problems for seniors, including depression and high risks of falling and injury.
Can hearing aids improve my health?
Most definitely! Hearing aids can improve our health in various ways, and if you want to benefit from these, you should go visit a hearing care professional, who will then evaluate the degree of hearing loss and recommend ways in which you can improve your life.
Hearing aids are helpful for every senior experiencing hearing loss, no matter if they live at home or at an assisted living community or nursing homes. In case the person reading this is a caretaker for a senior, you might also want to inform yourself as to how you can provide a better hearing aid care for the person in your care.
How will hearing aids make me look?
There is a good percentage of people that are afraid hearing aids will make them look old and use it as a reason not to use them. But this would only make sense for people that increase the TV volume to high levels, or constantly yell “WHAT?!?!”
However, there are a couple of ways you can avoid failing into this category. The first one is by lowering the TV volume, and the second is getting a hearing aid.
We can Help! Our local advisors can help your family make a confident decision about senior living.