Age-Related Hearing Loss


Age-Related Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss

Presbycusis is the medical term for the slow hearing loss that older people develop. It is one of the most common afflictions that affect older adults. Within the inner ear, lie tiny hair cells which help with hearing. These hairs pick up sound waves and help your nerves interpret them to your brain as sound. When these cells get damaged or die, hearing loss occurs. Since these cells don’t grow back, most damage is irreversible.

Difficulties of Hearing Loss

  • Having trouble hearing/understanding those around you
  • Problems telling certain sounds from one another
  • Asking people around you to repeat themselves
  • Ringing of the ears
  • Trouble hearing in noisy areas
  • Difficulty listening to entertainment media, such as television, music, and audio books

Causes

Doctors are unsure why presbycusis affects people differently, but they have identified a few consistent causes. Repeated exposure to loud noises and music can contribute to loss of hearing. Have you ever heard an older person complain about the noise level? It may be because they already suffer from hearing loss and the loud decibel is harming their ears further. Family history also plays a role. Presbycusis tends to run in families and can be passed down to the next generation. Some medications, such as drugs used for chemotherapy, can cause damage. Certain medical conditions can also contribute. For example, type 2 diabetes damages the nerves and blood vessels within the ear, and people with this diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss.

Treatment

As mentioned before, there is no treatment for permanent age-related hearing loss. However, there are devices that can help with the transition and improve quality of life.

  • Assistive devices, such as telephone amplifiers, smart phone apps and closed circuit systems, work in public theaters and auditoriums.
  • Hearing aids fit in or behind your ear and amplify sounds.
  • Speech reading and sign language are for extreme cases.
  • For severe loss of hearing, doctors may recommend a cochlear implant. A doctor will place the implant surgically, and it can help the patient detect certain sounds again. However, cochlear implants do not ‘cure’ loss of hearing.

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