In the United States, approximately 1 in 3 people aged 65-74 suffer from hearing loss, and almost half of people older than 75 have hearing loss. Hearing loss can make it difficult for seniors to enjoy their life and has even been linked to conditions like depression and dementia. Therefore, it’s important to know what the signs are and how it happens. It’s also important to know how to prevent further complications from age related hearing loss and how to treat it.
What is Age Related Hearing Loss?
True to its name, age related hearing loss (or presbycusis) is gradual, irreversible hearing loss that occurs as part of the aging process. It is one of the most common conditions that affect the elderly.
Some symptoms or signs of age related hearing loss include:
- Speech sounding muffled or slurred, especially for higher pitch voices like women or children
- Having difficulty distinguishing certain high-pitched sounds such as “s” and “th”
- Some noises sounding overly loud or more annoying
It is important to note that for presbycusis, a person tends to lose their ability to hear high frequencies first. It is common for a person to not be able to hear sounds such as alarms and other sharp noises but hear low frequency sounds such as the rumble of a truck that passes by.
How does Age Related Hearing Loss Occur?
Presbycusis is usually due to changes in the inner ear or the auditory nerve. These changes tend to be gradual and most often affect the hair cells that are present in the inner ear. These hair cells are responsible for detecting sound from the environment and play an important role in hearing.
When these hair cells become damaged, they no longer function properly and cannot detect certain sounds from the environment. This damage is permanent and cannot be cured. Usually, the hair cells that receive high frequency sounds are the first ones to be damaged in the aging process. This causes the characteristic loss in the ability to hear higher pitch sounds.
There are other factors that contribute to presbycusis besides the aging process. This may include some medications that are ototoxic (harmful to the ear), genetic conditions or certain health problems (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.) and repeated or severe exposure to noise.
Can I Prevent Age Related Hearing Loss?
While there is no way to prevent hearing loss from aging, you can still protect your hearing from other factors that are within your control.
First, you have to be aware of the sounds that can cause hearing damage. Not all sounds affect your ear in the same way and you may be able to tolerate some noises for a period of time without suffering hearing damage while other sounds may cause immediate hearing damage.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) lists any noise above 85 dB as harmful to your hearing. Prolonged exposure to noises above 85 dB can cause hearing damage over time, whereas any sound over 120 dB can cause immediate damage and loss of hearing.
The easiest way to protect your hearing is to avoid loud noises in the first place. When that is not possible, it is recommended you have earmuffs or earplugs on hand to protect your hearing from these noises. You should also take frequent breaks from listening to things such as the radio or television to give your ears a chance to rest. For other health conditions or medication that affects hearing loss, it is best to consult with your doctor to find the right solutions.
What if I already have age related hearing loss? How can I treat it?
As mentioned previously, once you have age related hearing loss, it is irreversible. Therefore, it is important to seek treatment in order to address the hearing loss you currently have and prevent or delay additional conditions that may occur due to age related hearing loss.
We always recommend visiting your healthcare provider in the event you experience new hearing loss or if it seems your hearing loss is getting worse. For age related hearing loss, unfortunately, there is no surgery or medication that can cure it.
The best treatment is hearing aids. While hearing aids will not cure presbycusis, it does help amplify sounds and make them louder and clearer. Audiologists are specialists that are specifically trained to test for and treat hearing loss. They do provide hearing tests and can recommend specific hearing aids based on the test results. Audiologists can tune hearing aids for your specific hearing needs and can continue to make necessary adjustments.
However, some people may have difficulty paying for these specialized hearing aids, as prices range anywhere from $900 to $6000 or higher. There are more affordable options called direct-to-consumer (DTC) hearing aids that allow you to purchase aids from online stores. They will then ship directly to your home. The downside to this method is that the hearing aids are not personalized to your hearing needs. However, many age-related hearing loss cases are similar, primarily affecting high frequencies. DTC aids can be tuned for high frequency hearing loss, which would still provide some benefit even if it does not fit your needs exactly.
Age related hearing loss is very common in older adults and is usually due to changes in the ear and brain as a result of aging. There are other external factors that can affect their hearing further, such as exposure to loud noise or medical conditions. While you cannot prevent age related hearing loss, you can take steps to protect your hearing to avoid making it worse or causing other forms of hearing loss. While presbycusis is irreversible, there are still medical devices like hearing aids that can help people hear certain sounds louder and clearer. There are many types of hearing aids for sale but the ones at the audiologist’s office can be costly. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) hearing aids are a more affordable option and still provide the benefits of having a hearing aid.
If you are in need of hearing assistance or know a loved one who struggles with hearing problems, Neosonic products may help. Our products are designed for mild to severe hearing loss and help with high frequency hearing loss, age-related or otherwise.
We understand that hearing loss can deeply affect your quality of life as well as your relationships with friends and family. We also know that hearing aids can be very expensive and that not everyone can afford the steep prices that some of these hearing companies charge. This is why we offer our products at much more affordable prices. We do this by cutting out the middle man and passing the savings on to you. If you’re interested, you can always reach out to us and we’ll do our best to help you pick a product that works for you.