As we get older it is not usual for your hearing to slowly become poorer. Because living with hearing loss can be a slow gradual process, you often don’t notice it happening and you might be offended when friends and family start commenting on your hearing.
The thought of getting hearing aids and learning which type is the best hearing aid for you can make you feel like you are losing some of your independence. Or you may see it as a sign that you are getting old!
Hearing loss negatively affects your quality of life. Older adults with hearing loss often report feelings of depression. Hearing loss can make conversation difficult, and this will make some people experience feelings of isolation.
You must react to hearing loss quickly and seek help before it worsens.
Gradual hearing loss is common. Almost 50% of the people in the United States older than age 65 have some degree of hearing loss.
There are three types of hearing loss:
- Conductive – involves outer or middle ear
- Sensorineural – involves the inner ear
- Mixed – a combination of the two
Hearing loss is something that cannot be reversed. As soon as you realize your hearing is deteriorating, speak to your doctor and take action.
- Others of speech and various sounds appear muffled
- You have difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise or when in a crowd
- Trouble hearing consonants
- You find yourself frequently asking others to speak more slowly, clearly, and louder
- Needing to turn up the volume of the television or radio
- Avoidance conversations and some social settings
Causes of Hearing Loss
Loud noise – noisy machinery around the home like lawn mowers and snow blowers, or at work like electric saws and digging machinery, or loud music can all damage your inner ear, resulting in permanent hearing loss. You can protect yourself by reducing the volume on your stereo, television, or headphones; or using earplugs or other ear protection.
Earwax or fluid buildup – blocks sound being carried from the eardrum to the inner ear. Your doctor can suggest mild treatments to soften earwax.
A punctured eardrum – this may be caused by infection, pressure, or putting objects in the ear, including cotton-tipped swabs.
Health conditions common in older people – diabetes, high blood pressure, viruses, bacteria, a heart condition, stroke, brain injury, or a tumor can all affect your hearing.
Ototoxic medications – these damage the inner ear, sometimes permanently. These are sometimes used to treat serious infections, cancer, and heart disease.
Heredity – but not all inherited forms of hearing loss take place at birth.
The following factors may damage your hearing, or lead to loss of the hairs and nerve cells in your inner ear:
Aging – degeneration of inner ear structures occur over time.
Loud noises – long-term exposure to loud noises, or from a short blast of noise, such as from a gunshot.
Heredity – your genetic makeup may make you more susceptible.
Occupational noises – Jobs where loud noises are a regular part of the work environment, such as farming, construction or factory work.
Recreational noises – exposure to explosive noises, such as from firearms and jet engines, snowmobiling, motorcycling, carpentry. or listening to loud music.
Some medications – drugs such as the antibiotic gentamicin, sildenafil (Viagra) and certain chemotherapy drugs.
Some illnesses – anything that results in high fever, such as meningitis, may damage the cochlea.
The following steps can help you prevent hearing loss from aging or exposure to loud noises:
Protect your ears – limit the time exposed and the volume. Wear earplugs or earmuffs.
Have your hearing assessed – regular hearing tests make sense if you are regularly exposed to loud noises. Catching hearing loss early can help prevent it from worsening.
Avoid recreational risks – limit activities with loud noises or wear earplugs or earmuffs when doing them.
Almost one in three people aged between 65 and 74 suffer from some hearing loss, while almost half of those over 75 have difficulty hearing. However, it is not unusual for many people to avoid admitting that they have a hearing problem.
Once you begin losing your hearing, it will never improve, it can only worsen.
If you take immediate action, your hearing can be monitored. You can learn about what actions you can take to prevent further exposure. This could be distancing yourself from loud noise or using earplugs.
If necessary, you will be able to plan for (and save for) hearing aids that will best suit you and your lifestyle.