As a person ages, they are at risk for hearing loss. As a person reaches 65, they have a one in three chance of having some form of hearing loss. Understanding hearing loss, its causes, and how to protect hearing throughout one’s life can help reduce the instances of this condition.
What is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss occurs when any part of the ear, nerves, or areas of the brain that control hearing are not functioning normally. When hearing loss is greater than 35 decibels, it is considered disabling. Healthcare professionals called audiologists are the best option for diagnosing this condition.
Most hearing loss is considered age-related. Most people do not even realize they have hearing loss because the changes are often small and gradual over many years. Often, age-related hearing loss is not diagnosed until it has already become disabling.
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Early Signs of Hearing Loss
Identifying hearing loss early can help individuals get the help they need before the problem progresses. Unfortunately, many people do not realize there is a problem early on. Understanding the early signs in one’s self and their loved ones can aid in getting diagnosed as early as possible.
Some common signs include:
- Difficulties understanding some words, especially in crowded places
- Difficulties hearing non-vowel letters in speech
- Constantly asking others to repeat themselves
- The need to turn up the volume on the TV or radio
- Ringing in the ears
These and any other noticeable changes in the way a person hears or distinguishes sounds should be a cause for concern. A professional hearing test can identify any issue the person may be having. Early identification of the problem can allow early treatment and may prevent the condition from worsening.
Causes of Hearing Loss
There are many causes of hearing loss as a person ages. Changes in the structure of the ear, the nerves, or even the brain over the course of a lifetime could cause hearing loss. Certain health conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, may also be a cause. Injuries to the ear or brain can even be a cause of hearing loss as a person ages. There are even some types of medications that can cause hearing loss in some individuals.
Long-term noise exposure is also a major cause of hearing loss as a person ages. Whether it is due to listening to music that is too loud or working in an environment with heavy machinery, loud noises over long periods of time can damage the ear and reduce hearing as a person ages.
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Hearing Loss Prevention and Treatment
The most important method for preventing hearing loss is to limit exposure to loud noises. It may be nearly impossible to avoid noisy environments, especially in a work environment. In situations where loud noises are unavoidable, wearing earplugs can reduce the damage to the ear.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help individuals avoid some of the health risks that may affect hearing. Getting regular checkups can also help minimize these health risks. Regular hearing tests can also prevent hearing loss by identifying problems early and getting treatment.
At the first sign of hearing loss, seeking the help of a healthcare professional is important. The care provider can help identify the cause of the hearing loss. In some cases, changing medications may be a solution. In other cases, hearing aids can help restore hearing to prevent further issues for the patient.
Hearing loss can be difficult for a person, especially in their older years. It can lead to avoidance of social interactions. This avoidance can create issues of isolation and depression. Hearing loss is also closely related to the onset of dementia. Getting care and treatment early can prevent many of these issues from occurring.