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When you hear but don’t understand

How Hearing Loss Progresses as We Age

Elderly Man with Hearing Loss

It’s likely that, to some degree, you’re already aware that our hearing can be compromised as we age. Over a third of all adults over 65 live with some extent of hearing loss, while half of those over 75 has some problems with communication and hearing.

Compared to other kinds of hearing loss, age-related hearing loss is particularly gradual and can be hard to notice at first. Here, we’re going to look at what it is, the causes, why it’s important you’re proactive in tackling it and how you can do just that.

What is age-related hearing loss?

As the name suggests, age-related hearing loss is a progressive hearing loss that affects us as we age. In the majority of cases, it affects both ears at the same time. Due to its slow and gradual nature, many adults take some time to realize their communication and hearing is declining. Some accept it as a natural part of aging, but there are treatment options to help you with it.

What causes age-related hearing loss?

The exact factors that lead to age-related hearing loss are difficult to pinpoint. Changes happen in the inner ear as we get older, such as the slow reduction of the tiny hair cells on the cochlea that are critical in transmitting sound from the ear to the brain. However, there are plenty of other factors that can contribute to it, too. This includes genetics, the use of certain medications and other health conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Exposure to harmful levels of noise can play a role, too. Sounds louder than 85 decibels, which is the level of sound produced by a snow blower, city traffic or being inside a car, can have a negative effect on our hearing. The louder the noise or the longer we are exposed to it, the more damage it can do to those hair cells in the inner ear. Noise-induced hearing loss isn’t necessarily linked to age-related hearing loss, but many adults over 65 have a mix of the two.

The significant impact it can have on your life

As you might imagine, hearing loss can change how you live your life significantly. Communication may become harder as you find it more difficult to talk to and to understand people. You may start missing sounds such as the doorbell, the phone or your morning alarm.

The changes can have an impact on your mental health, too. The reduction of functional independence can contribute to issues with stress or low self-esteem, while the increasing difficulty of communication may lead to experiences of isolation. What’s more, age-related hearing loss and the resulting isolation are both linked to your risk of dementia. For all these reasons, it’s important to be proactive in tackling it.

What can you do about it?

The prevention of age-related hearing loss is not entirely understood. By using noise protection against unsafe levels of noise, you can ensure your hearing isn’t deteriorating more than it naturally might. However, for age-related hearing loss, identifying and treating it with the help of a hearing instrument specialist may be your best option.

A hearing test is performed to find out not just whether you have hearing loss, but what type it is and how severe it is. Following that, you can work with a hearing instrument specialist to choose a hearing aid that best fits your needs. Hearing aids are remarkable for not only improving the hearing of the individual, but many come with features such as directional microphones and wireless connectivity (for using with TVs, smartphones and more) that can help tremendously. Adopting some new habits with friends and family, such as asking them to face you while speaking or requesting they speak more slowly, can help you improve your communication, too.

How do you know when to seek help?

When you experience signs of age-related hearing loss or any kind of decrease in hearing and communication abilities, it’s best to seek help as soon as possible. Here are some of the signs you should keep an eye out for:

  • You have to look directly at people to understand what they’re saying
  • Others have noted that you have turned the volume on your TV up very high, but you don’t perceive it
  • You have trouble hearing movies in the theater
  • You feel frustrated or embarrassed when you can’t understand what someone is saying to you
  • You have trouble hearing in crowded spaces such as restaurants or airports
  • You notice any changes to your hearing abilities at all

Whether you suspect that you might be starting to develop age-related hearing loss and you want to do something about it or you simply want to know that your hearing health is in good shape, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Ears 2 Hear at our Surfside Beach location at (843) 213-1593 or our Florence office at (843) 665-8688. Our hearing instrument specialists can help evaluate and treat hearing loss, but the sooner you start, the better.