Age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, is a loss of hearing that gradually occurs as most of us grow older. Presbycusis is the most common condition affecting those over the age of 65, and it is believed that 1 in 3 people between the ages of 65 and 75 suffer from some form of hearing loss. Of those older than 75 years, over half have trouble with their hearing.
Having trouble with your hearing can make life difficult, affecting:
- how you interact with others
- how you hear a doctor’s advice
- respond to warnings
- hear phones
- alarms, and
- how you may interact with hazards such as traffic.
Some loss of hearing is gradual, and with age-related hearing loss, you may not even realise that you have started to lose your hearing. If you find that you are having trouble understanding other people, if you have to listen to questions twice, or focus more attentively on what another person is saying, then you may have started to lose your hearing.
Commonly, hearing loss arises due to changes in the inner ear that occur naturally as we age. However, changes can occur in the middle ear or along nerve pathways from the ear or brain. Some medical conditions or medications may play a role in this process and it is important to be aware of them. It may also be difficult to decipher whether hearing loss is associated with age or long-term exposure to noise.
Reasons for Hearing Loss
Most people over the age of 65 have a combination of age-related and noise-related hearing loss. Currently, researchers do not know how to prevent age-related hearing loss but we do have methods that assist in hearing loss associated with noise. These include:
- protecting your ears if noise is too loud and carrying on for too long
- not listening to music at an excessively loud volume, and
- avoiding the use of noisy items such as lawnmowers or leaf blowers.
If you feel that you are experiencing hearing loss then the best thing you can do is seek medical attention. There are several types of professional who can help you. The best place to start is your General Practitioner’s office to get a referral to see an appropriate specialist.
There is plenty you can do to make life with hearing loss easier. The first thing is to communicate with those around you and give them tools that will assist with communication.
You can make your life easier by asking friends and family members to talk to your face so that you can read their expressions to assist with understanding. You can also ask people to speak louder without shouting; they do not have to talk more slowly, just more clearly.
Reduce background noise like the TV or radio, and be aware of noises that can make hearing more difficult such as sitting near a kitchen in a restaurant or beside a stereo playing music.
Hearing loss is a natural occurrence as we age and not something to be afraid of. Simple life adjustments can be made in order to ensure your routine carries on as normal, and there are medical professionals who will assist you and your loved ones make a transition back toward clarity where possible.