Is Hearing Loss a Normal Part of Aging?
As you grow older, there are many changes that the body goes through. One of them may be hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, is gradual hearing loss that occurs with age. Nearly 1 in 2 adults over age 65 experience some degree of hearing loss. As common as it is, hearing loss can affect your quality of life. Fortunately, there are things you can do to improve your hearing and make life easier.
Why Hearing Loss Happens with Age
Hearing loss typically occurs because of changes in the inner ear. Here are some of the things that can happen.
- Decreased blood flow to the ear
- Impairment in the nerves
- Changes in the way the brain processes sound
- Damage to the hairs in the ears that transmit sound
- Changes to the structure of the inner ear
Some of these changes happen naturally with age while others are complications of conditions such as diabetes, poor circulation, smoking or certain medications. It’s also possible that listening to loud music when you were younger could have caused some damage.
Identifying and Diagnosing Hearing Loss
Doctors usually diagnose age-related hearing loss by ruling out other conditions and running a hearing test to see how much hearing you’ve lost. It’s possible that less efficient hearing is due to other causes such as an ear infection, sinus infection or allergies. These problems can clog the ears and affect your ability to hear clearly.
Here are some warning signs of possible hearing loss:
- Trouble hearing in noisy areas
- Difficulty distinguishing between “s” and “th” sounds
- Ringing in the ears
- Needing to turn up the TV or radio
- Asking people to repeat themselves
- Trouble hearing over-the-phone conversations
Treatment for Age-Related Hearing Loss
Even though there is no cure for age-related hearing loss, there are things you can do to improve your hearing. The first is to wear hearing aids. Hearing aids are expensive, so we recommend reading this article that outlines eight affordable options for hearing aids. Another option is hearing assisted devices such as personal amplifiers. Or, if you think that your hearing is progressing quickly, it can be helpful to learn sign language or lip reading.
If you are experience hearing loss and are concerned, please consult your primary care physician.