Age-related hearing loss—or presbycusis—affects the lives of over 35 million Americans. Many individuals with hearing loss choose to simply grin and bear it. However, quality of life does not have to deteriorate with hearing loss.
The Causes Of Hearing Loss
Tiny, hair-like cells that reside within the inner ear aid our ability to hear. These cells are tasked with capturing soundwaves in a wide spectrum of frequencies. As we grow older, these hair-like cells can deteriorate, die, or become damaged. The result is a diminished ability to capture certain frequencies.
Age-related hearing loss starts in a person’s 40s. Oftentimes, it becomes more apparent as we reach our 60s. The inner ear is unable to regrow these hair cells naturally, resulting in hearing loss of various degrees. The “degree” (measured in decibels versus normal hearing) will differ from one person to the next. Some of the causes of hearing loss include:
- Health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure
- Viruses and bacteria (such as certain ear infections)
- Family history
- Certain medications
- A punctured ear dream
- Exposure to loud noise over the years
Signs Of Age-Related Hearing Loss
Age-related hearing loss usually affects both ears to a similar degree. However, because the process is gradual, it can be tricky to notice the difference. Many people suffering from hearing loss say it’s difficult to distinguish high-frequency sounds. Conversely, as hearing loss develops, it may become difficult to hear sounds at lower pitches. Some other symptoms of hearing loss include:
- Speech sounds muffled or slurred
- Difficulty following conversations
- You are able to distinguish men’s voices more easily than women’s (according to John Hopkins)
- Increasing difficulty hearing in noise environments
- High-pitched sounds, such as “S” or “Th”, are hard to distinguish from one another
- Certain sounds seem overly loud or even painful
Managing Hearing Loss
As with any medical condition, a health provider should provide a medical diagnosis. In the case of hearing loss, the patient will undergo a hearing test. The test may include a speech-in-noise check that uses different types of background noise.
Hearing tests may be available at your local hearing center. Your family doctor may be able to provide a simple hearing test. Once medical professionals determine the precise cause and level of hearing loss, they’ll offer several ways to manage your condition.
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Hearing aids—a group of microcomputers that fit inside or outside the wearer’s ear—may help you manage your hearing loss. Of course, there are other devices designed to aid those with hearing loss. These may include amplified phones (as well as cell phones), amplified alarms, and even devices that can amplify the sound of a TV. Using a number of aids, each with different functions, may yield the best results.
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Robert FowlerContributing Writer
Robert Fowler is a retired blogger who lives with his wife, Mary Ann at Village at Deaton Creek, a Del Webb Community in North Georgia. Robert was previously the President of Retirement Media Inc. He has visited numerous 55+ Active Adult Communities over the years, sharing his experiences along the way with readers. View more posts