Age-Related Hearing Loss
Do You Have Age-Related Hearing Loss?
Age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, is a common condition. In fact, The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that one-third of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 — and half of Americans older than 75 — are affected by hearing loss.
Although age-related hearing loss is common and doesn’t always cause noticeable problems, severe cases can have a negative impact on your quality of life. That’s because good hearing is critical to your safety, as well as your ability to socialize, work, interact with others, communicate effectively and participate in activities you enjoy.
Here’s the good news: Age-related hearing loss usually can be treated with hearing aids or other assistive devices. But the first step toward treating age-related hearing loss is recognizing the signs, understanding the causes and risk factors, and knowing where to turn for help.
What are the causes of age-related hearing loss and who is at risk?
As you get older, the hair cells in your inner ear become damaged or die, which leads to age-related hearing loss. Scientists aren’t exactly sure what causes this hair cell death and damage, but research suggests that age-related hearing loss could be linked to poor circulation and inflammation or a gradual build-up of toxins in your inner ear.
If you have a health condition that affects your circulation, such as high cholesterol, a history of smoking, high blood pressure or diabetes, you could be a higher risk of developing age-related hearing loss. Some medications, such as chemotherapy drugs and certain antibiotics and diuretics, also have been linked to hearing loss. Inflammatory disorders, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, and long-term exposure to noise may also increase your risk.
What are the signs of age-related hearing loss?
It can sometimes be tough to spot the signs of age-related hearing loss because the changes occur gradually over time. For example, over time you may notice that you have more trouble hearing the TV when people are talking in the background. Or, you may struggle to hear the waiter in a crowded restaurant. You may even need to turn up the speaker volume on your cell phone to clearly understand what callers are saying.
Sometimes, friends or family members are the first to notice signs of age-related hearing loss. If you aren’t sure if you are experiencing age-related hearing loss, this NIDCD questionnaire can help you assess your symptoms.
How do I get treatment for age-related hearing loss?
If you think you or a loved one might have age-related hearing loss, you should start by talking about the problem with your primary care provider. Your primary care provider will refer you to a hearing specialist called an audiologist and a healthcare provider who specializes in treating conditions of the ears, nose and throat.
After you receive a hearing test and an exam, your healthcare providers will discuss your hearing loss treatment options with you. One option may include hearing aids, which are tiny electronic devices that you wear in or behind your ears. These devices use the latest technology to make sounds louder.
Although hearing aids can be expensive and usually are not covered by health insurance, there are many models available at a variety of prices. Your audiologist can help you find the right model for you.
Can I prevent age-related hearing loss?
Although age-related hearing loss can’t be prevented, there are a few things you can do to lower your risk. Healthy lifestyle habits, such as eating healthy foods, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking, can prevent you from developing chronic conditions that may affect your circulation and contribute to age-related hearing loss.
If you already have a chronic health condition, you should go to your medical appointments, take your medications as directed and follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for ongoing care.
The nurse practitioners (NPs) at The Nurse’s Office understand how important good hearing is to your quality of life. To find out more about how the NPs at The Nurse’s Office can help you take steps to improve your hearing, visit www.thenursesoffice.com, call (860) 603-3541 or walk in for immediate care.