Hearing loss is one of the most common issues facing older Americans today. Called “presbycusis” (prez-bee-KYOO-sis), age-related hearing loss is a slow decline in our ability to hear various sounds as we get older. Statistics show that nearly 50 percent of adults ages 75 and older are currently dealing with some form of hearing loss.
Hearing loss experts say that while there is no known single cause of age-related hearing loss, it most commonly results from changes in the inner ear that occur with the passage of time. Other factors that can contribute to age-related hearing loss include:
- Family history (age-related hearing loss tends to run in families)
- Repeated exposure to loud noises
- Smoking (smokers are more likely to have such hearing loss than nonsmokers)
- Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes
- Certain medicines, such as chemotherapy drugs for cancer
Understanding and Awareness Are Key
Carmen Duren, Executive Director at Provident Village at Canton in Canton, GA, says, “Because it is so prevalent among senior adults, it is important for those experiencing hearing loss to seek proper treatment so they can fully enjoy all aspects of their life, especially when there are so many helpful solutions available today.
“Unfortunately, many senior adults do not avail themselves to proper treatment because they feel too embarrassed to admit they have a hearing loss problem. A further complication stems from the fact that age-related hearing loss worsens in such a gradual way that it may be almost imperceptible to the person with the problem.
“Hearing loss cannot be reversed and may lead to deafness. And beyond this obvious deficit, senior living experts advise that hearing loss may also cause the person to avoid leaving home. This can be especially dangerous for older adults because isolation has been linked to serious health problems such as depression, physical decline and the onset of memory loss.
“Therefore, if you have a family member who is reluctant to admit they have a problem, or whose ability to hear has clearly declined in your opinion, be reassuring to them and encourage them to seek appropriate care immediately.”
You can find additional helpful information on age-related hearing loss on the websites of the National Institute on Aging and National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Provident Village at Canton can also be a helpful resource.
The Signs and Symptoms of Hearing Loss
Because so many helpful solutions are available, don’t hesitate to see a trained professional if you or a family member is showing signs of hearing loss. Hearing loss experts recommend that you be vigilant for the following warning signs:
- Difficulty hearing people around you or on the telephone
- Frequently asking people to repeat themselves
- Frustration at not being able to hear the TV or radio at a normal volume
- Problems hearing in noisy areas
- Certain sounds seeming too loud
- Experiencing a ringing, buzzing or hissing sound in the ears
If any of these signs are apparent, your family doctor can refer you to the proper hearing loss specialist such as an ear, nose and throat doctor (called an otolaryngologist), a certified audiologist who will measure your hearing capability or a hearing aid specialist.
Hearing Aids and Other Assistive Devices Provide Hearing Loss Solutions
Because there is no cure for age-related hearing loss, treatment is focused on improving hearing function. According to the National Institutes of Health and other medical sources, the following options are most commonly used:
- Hearing Aids –Hearing aids are electronic, battery-run devices that make sounds louder. There are many types of hearing aids. Before buying a hearing aid, ask if your health insurance will cover the cost. Also ask if you can have a trial period so you can make sure the device is right for you. An audiologist or hearing aid specialist will show you how to use your hearing aid.
Hearing aids should fit comfortably in your ear. You may need several visits with the hearing aid specialist to get it right. Hearing aids may need repairs, and batteries have to be changed on a regular basis. Remember, when you buy a hearing aid, you are buying both a product and a service.
- Assistive Listening Devices – Other technology products that can help improve hearing. Include telephone amplifying devices, hearing loop systems and alert systems that work with doorbells, phones, alarm clocks or smoke detectors to send visual signals or vibrations.
- Cochlear Implants – A surgical implant option is used only in severe cases and with certain types of hearing loss. The implant allows the person to detect sounds again and with practice can allow the person to understand speech, but it does not restore normal hearing.
- Lip Reading – This is a method used to follow conversations by paying attention to mouth movements and body language. Lip reading can be learned with practice and training by a speech pathologist.
Ms. Duren adds, “The good news is that hearing loss can be managed so that you can continue to live a full and active life. Here at Provident Village at Canton assisted living and memory care residents with hearing loss enjoy active, engaging lifestyles and carry on meaningful relationships, despite their hearing loss challenges.
“Whatever your challenges, our experienced care team provides personalized care support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether it’s assisting with the activities of daily living or offering more comprehensive care, our team is committed to ensuring residents enjoy vibrant lives.
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