Age Related Hearing Loss
There are well over 35 million hard of hearing residing in the
US. The biggest group is individuals over the age of 65 years old.
The most common cause of hearing loss amongst this group are
age-related and noise-induced. It is important to understand the
reasons behind age-related hearing loss as sensory impairment can
often be managed. Choosing to ‘just live with it’ can often
result in a reduced quality of life.
What Causes Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be caused by a whole host of reasons, some short
term; for example an infection, while others are more long term such
as noise-induced and age-related. When it comes to age-related
hearing loss causes, the impairment is completely natural and just a
side effect of getting older. Most individuals will experience the
tell tale signs of hearing loss as they mature from roughly the age
of 40 years old, though the vast majority are the over 65s. The
severity of age-related hearing loss will vary between individuals.
Our hearing system as well as other sensory systems is a complex
one involving the workings of various organs in conjunction with the
brain. The inner ear includes microscopic hair like structures that
are designed to capture waves of sound at various frequencies. These
sounds (waves or vibrations of air) are than passed by means of the
auditory nerve to the brain to interrupt. As we grow older, the hair
like structures die, damage or deteriorate in quality. As the body
is unable to regrow them, the result is a difficulty in capturing
certain frequencies. In fact over 90% of permanent hearing losses
are linked with the deterioration of the tiny inner or outer hair
What Are The Symptoms Of Age Related Hearing Loss
It can include difficulty in hearing the people around you within
noisy environments. The background noise may seem far too loud
compared to the actual speech. You may also notice the following:
● Sounds seem less clear
● Not being able to hear the telephone of door bell
ring when others can
● Other people may sound mumbled or slurred
● Inability to hear high-pitched sounds such as "s" and
● Often having to ask people to repeat themselves
● Having to have the television or radio turned up much
higher than other family members
● Feeling tired after participating in a conversation
held within background noise
Managing Hearing Loss
Because the body is unable to regrow the microscopic hair cells,
effective course of action recommended by a health care providers
revolves around managing the condition. Any such course of action
must start with a hearing test to pinpoint the reason for the
An audiologist will normally start the test by asking you general
questions about your lifestyle and overall health to take into
account influencing factors such as hobbies, job, age and past
illnesses. The next step will involve a physical examination of the
ear to rule out medical conditions such as blockage and infection.
Finally you are ready for the actual hearing test, most commonly a
pure tone audiometry type in which your sensitivity of hearing at
different frequencies is tested.
At the end of the test, assuming a degree of loss is established;
you may be presented with a number of means to manage the condition.
These often take the form of hearing aids or assistive listening
devices. They work on the basis of amplifying external sounds and
are designed to fit a whole host of lifestyles. The most common are
hearing aids that reside inside or just outside the ear and suitable
for most day-to-day activities. Next are a group of more dedicated
aids of the assistive listening devices type that include products
such as amplified phones, vibrating alarm clocks and TV hearing
aids. Hearing aids are available at no charge from the NHS (a
waiting list will apply and models are limited) or privately,
however assistive listening devices are only available privately.
If you are concerned about your hearing, book a hearing test or
talk with your family doctor. You may also consider taking an online
hearing test to gauge a possible hearing loss, though it should not
replace a physical hearing test.
On-line Hearing Test
Article written by Joan McKechnie BSc Hons Audiology & Speech
Pathology. Joan works for
and she writes a weekly blog about hearing loss.
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