Hearing Loss Is An Isolating Disability
Hearing loss is often a misunderstood condition clouded in misconception and incomplete information. When it is due to aging, it is rarely a condition that leads to complete deafness and can be managed successfully to reduce its effect on quality of life.
According to official figures (source: The MarkeTrak VIII survey), over 35 million Americans are believed to display the symptoms of hearing loss and the biggest group are the over 65. As modern healthcare improves and the elderly population is expected to live longer, the numbers of Americans with hearing loss is projected to increase to 40 million by 2025 and 53 million by 2050.
How Does Hearing Loss Happen?
Age related hearing loss (‘presbycusis’) is a natural process that will affect, to a certain degree, all individuals as they mature. It is a gradual deterioration in hearing ability to hear certain frequencies. Our hearing is aided by tiny hair cells within the inner ear that are tasked with the important job of sending vibrations and waves (what we refer to simply as ‘sound’) to the brain. As the body matures, from about the age of 45 years old, the quantity and quality of the hair cells diminish. The result is a growing difficulty to hear certain frequencies.
To provide some context, a child with normal hearing is able to hear high-pitched frequencies in the range of 20,000 cycles per second compared to adults over 65 years who are able to hear high-pitched frequencies in the range of 8,000 cycles per second.
The inner ear hair cells cannot regrow or regenerate so the loss of hearing, gradual as it may be, is permanent. The role of the modern healthcare system is to provide education for those suffering from the condition and to offer means that can help alleviate its effects on our day-to-day lives.
What Are the Typical Symptoms of Hearing Loss?
There are a number of contributing factors that lead to varied degrees of hearing loss even among individuals of the same age. Factors such as exposure to damaging noise during one’s lifetime (known as noise induced hearing loss), family history, certain medical conditions and even smoking will result in the presence of some or all of the symptoms.
- Struggling to hear people around you and having to ask people to keep repeating their words
- Certain sounds seem too loud, while other sounds such as “s” and “th” cannot be distinguished (especially in areas with background noise)
- Voices seems less clear
- The volume of the TV, phone and music player needs to be louder than others may find comfortable
- Feeling physically exhausted after conducting a simple conversion (from over concentration)
How To Deal With Hearing Loss
The first recommended course of action is to arrange a hearing test to determine the presence of hearing loss and its precise cause. Hearing loss may also be caused by infection in the ear, certain medicine and other causes that are unrelated to aging. Once the test is complete, your healthcare provider will recommend means to manage any established condition. These means vary from person to person depending on lifestyles, level of hearing loss and other factors.
In the case of mild to moderate hearing loss, devices such as amplified alerting devices and hearing aids tend to improve quality of life, while in the case of profound hearing loss sign language and speech lip reading are recommended.
If you have any concerns about your hearing or that of someone you care about, talk to your family doctor or healthcare provider.
Bio: Melanie Lewis is a trained hearing aid audiologist. She works for hearing aid supplier hearing direct, the UK’s biggest supplier of amplified deaf and hard of hearing phones and actively writes for the hearing direct blog.