Overview of age-related hearing loss
Presbycusis or age-related hearing loss is a steady loss of hearing that occurs with the increasing age. One in every three adults faces this problem, once they cross the age of 65. Many people fail to notice the changes as they happen gradually. In majority cases, it affects the capability to hear high-pitched sounds like the beeping of a phone or microwave. Fortunately, it doesn’t change the ability to listen to lower-pitch sounds.
This health condition can make things difficult for the patients, as they fail to understand doctor’s advice, hear doorbells, understand warnings, or hear smoke alarms. Unfortunately, this condition affects both ears. Mostly, it occurs due to changes in the inner ear, middle ear, or in the brain nerve pathways. Certain medications and other health conditions can also play a role here.
Causes of Age-Related Hearing Loss
Though there can be many reasons behind the condition of Presbycusis, the most common ones are:
- Changes in the inner portion of the ear
- Age-driven modifications in the middle part of the ear
- Changes in the nerves that lead to the brain
- Loss of the sensory receptors or hair cells located in the innermost ear
- Changes in the method of how the brain processes sound and speech
- Increasing age
- Hereditary factors
- Conditions like diabetes or heart disease
- Exposure to loud noise
- Poor blood circulation
- Side effects of medicines, such as antibiotics and aspirin
Symptoms to Watch Out for
The symptoms generally begin with difficulty in hearing high pitched sounds. Further, you may also find difficulty in understanding the noises of children and females. This situation can aggravate when you start experiencing the problem in hearing background scores or hearing what the other person is speaking. Other major symptoms include:
- Ringing (tinnitus) sound in the ears
- Difficulty in understanding and identifying the difference between ‘th’ and ‘s’ sounds
- Specific sounds seem extra loud
- Continuously asking the people to repeat things
- Difficulty in hearing things in a noisy area
- Difficulty in apprehending telephonic conversation
- Steadily increasing the volume of the radio or TV
- Speech from other individuals sound slurred or mumbled
Make sure you consult an experienced doctor the moment you start experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above.
Remember, age-related hearing loss is an irreversible condition. But you can delay its coming or prevent it from affecting you for a more extended period. If you experience any sudden loss of hearing, consult your doctor immediately. Any further delays can deteriorate the situation. One of the significant preventive measures is to avoid constant exposure to loud sounds. Some more critical preventive measures are given as under:
- Protect your ears with the help of fluid-filled earplugs or any regular earplugs to protect them from loud noise
- Avoid visiting places that have loud noise
- If you have diabetes, controlling your blood sugar can help in preventing further hearing loss
- Immediate medical attention can also help in preventing hearing loss further
Your treatment will depend on the following questions:
- What is your age?
- What are your current medical conditions and diseases that you are suffering from?
- How is your current health, and what is your medical history?
- How long will this medical condition last?
- How well does your body accept the medications and therapies?
- What are your preferences and opinions?
Here are the standard treatment options for age-related hearing loss in patients:
- Hearing Aids – These are simple hearing devices that enable precise and loud hearing for the patient. It is worn at the back of the ear. There are different types of hearing aids like BTE, mini BTE, ITC, ITE, and CIC.
- Assistive Listening devices – There are specific assistive listening devices like telephone amplifiers, tablet and smartphone apps at conferences, places of worship, and amphitheaters.
- Lip Reading – Lip reading or other speech therapies can help the patient in understanding the words spoken by a person through his lip movements. This technique is quite successful and helps the patient be independent of any assisting devices.
Consult with your doctor to understand the best treatment options available for you. Make sure you write down all the difficulties you face while hearing on a paper during your check-up. You should also disclose all your current and past medications. Also, request the doctor to write all the medicines, tests, and preventive measures for you. You can also bring a family member along with you who can talk and understand the suggestions, on your behalf.