Although it’s important to emphasize that hearing loss affects many people, the sad fact remains that older adults are more likely to suffer from the condition. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), almost 25 percent of people aged 65 to 74 and half of those who are 75 and older have significant hearing loss. These numbers are higher than in any other age group.
How older people lose their hearing
Our hearing works less effectively with the advancement of time. Age related hearing loss, otherwise known as presbycusis, is a type of sensorineural hearing loss. It’s a type of hearing loss which affects the hearing cells within the cochlea. It occurs naturally in most people but can be accelerated exposure to noise. We rely on our ear cells to transfer incoming sound waves to the nerves that help us to hear. As we age, these tiny hair cells naturally decline, which has a huge effect on your hearing. The important thing to remember is that these ear cells cannot regenerate, so once damage has been done to them it is usually permanent.
Even though the process of hair cell degeneration is for most people a naturally occurring event, those with especially severe hearing loss have usually acquired some hearing loss due to some other reason. They might have been exposed to large degree of noise at work or perhaps even been involved in an accident where they suffered head trauma. In practice, it is often difficult to separate noise-induced hearing loss from hearing loss developed through ageing.
Why older people need to address their hearing loss
When hearing loss is discovered, it is important to manage it properly and take steps to improve hearing so that the individual can continue to live a fulfilling life. Currently however, only 30% of adults 70 or older have ever used hearing aids, suggesting there is large gap between what healthcare professionals recommend and how those with hearing loss respond. This is worrying as hearing loss can lead to problems that extend far beyond the scope of your ears.
Recent research is pointing towards a connection between untreated hearing loss and dementia. People whose brains are unstimulated are more likely to acquire dementia, which suggests that the lack of social connections could be a key factor in the development of dementia for those with hearing loss. And the lack of willingness to engage socially is a common response to hearing loss. The inability to keep up with conversations makes going out and seeing friends much less fun, and a night in front of the TV alone much more appealing.
In fact, many people underestimate the psychological cost of hearing loss. According to Stephen Kirsch, a doctor of audiology in private practice in Santa Monica, California, it can affect “relationships and the way people present themselves or represent themselves in situations with loved ones, strangers or on the job. It can block communication, and it can have some real effects in how they’re perceived and what kind of influence they have over others, because that’s all based on communication.”
How to deal with a loved one’s hearing loss
It’s important for those with hearing loss to remember that it doesn’t just affect the person who has it. It also affects partners, family and friends. It can lead to accidents when the individual is out and about, and being unable to hear the voices of dependents might put them in an unsafe situation. Partners might be tired of repeating things incessantly and even grow despondent at seeing their life partner change from a socially confident individual to a person who avoids social events.
It’s not easy to convince a loved one to take charge of their hearing loss. If you ever find yourself in this situation here are some tips to help you along.
- Have a one-on-one talk where you confide in them about your concern for them.
- Express your own struggles about the work you have to do to accommodate them and their condition.
- Minimize the amount of “translation” or repeating you do for them.
- Offer to schedule and attend a hearing consultation with them.
With these tips, it is hoped you can encourage those in need of hearing treatment to get the help they need, reducing the risk of mental, social and psychological problems in the future.
Visit Us at Active Hearing and Audiology
If you suspect that you may be experiencing hearing loss, contact us at Active Hearing and Audiology. We provide comprehensive hearing health services, from hearing testing to hearing aid fittings. We look forward to helping you on your journey to better hearing!