Age-Related Hearing Loss is Often Untreated

In Hearing Health, Hearing Loss by Christa N. Smith, Au.D., CCC-A

Christa N. Smith, Au.D., CCC-A
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Hearing loss comes in many shapes and sizes. Some people are born with hearing impairments or total deafness. Though these are not technically considered hearing “loss” these impairments begin at birth. Others develop hearing loss due to an accident or injury, including exposure to a loud sound or explosion. Still others can develop hearing loss due to an illness or other medical condition. Although these many possibilities exist for hearing loss and hearing impairment, by far the most common form of hearing loss is the result of the natural aging process. Over the years our ears are exposed to sound in a wide range of volume and pitch, or amplitude and frequency. After being constantly inundated with sound for a lifetime, the tiny hair-like cells of the inner ear are damaged or broken. The technical term for age-related hearing loss is presbycusis, and it is a gradual process that affects nearly everyone who lives into the golden years. Oddly enough, we don’t know exactly why the cells of the inner ear are damaged with time, but the current state of medical science means that those cells will not grow back once they are lost.

Although age-related hearing loss is incredibly common, many experts, such as the otolaryngologist and neurotologist Dr. Justin S. Golub with the Columbia University Medical Center, claim that only one in five people with age-related hearing loss will receive the treatment they need for their conditions. Despite incredible advances in hearing aid technology, far too many people fail to get the help they need with hearing, and the consequences of avoiding hearing loss can be devastating. Let’s take a quick look at some of the early warning signs of age-related hearing loss, as well as what you can do to treat the hearing loss that has already been incurred.

Warning Signs of Hearing Loss

Unlike some other conditions, age-related hearing loss often does not have a decisive starting point, and early detection can be difficult. Our brains and bodies are incredibly adept at satisfying when it comes to hearing loss. Little tricks like moving closer, turning a good ear in the direction of a speaker, reading lips, and putting together guessed meanings through context clues are some of the heuristic devices our brains use to get by with hearing loss, and some of these are even done without our conscious knowledge. For these reasons, a person can go a long time without even knowing that hearing loss is taking place. In order to quickly detect hearing loss, it is important to pay attention to some early warning signs including raising the volume of devices like the television to such a loud volume that others in the room are uncomfortable, missing pieces of conversations, and asking people to repeat themselves. If you catch yourself or someone you love doing these things, then the time has come for a hearing test.

Treatment for Hearing Loss

If hearing loss has already begun to take place, there are treatments available to fill in the gaps in your missing hearing. The most effective devices to treat age-related hearing loss are hearing aids. Current models are not like the hearing aids you may have seen in the past. These new advances make it possible to connect some hearing aids to Smartphone apps, setting a sonic environment for some commonly visited locations. Others have voice detection programs that are particularly adept at isolating and raising the volume of a speaker. The size and shape of hearing aids varies widely with some being tiny and invisible while others are made to be a bit larger to assist those with manual dexterity challenges or arthritis. Some hearing aids can even connect to other devices through Bluetooth technology so that you are able to hear a phone ring or listen to a television program and then switch seamlessly to having a conversation.

With the many treatment options available, why not take the step to schedule a hearing test. Even those who do not have hearing loss will benefit from determining the baseline hearing ability, useful for future assessment and treatment. For those who already have age-related hearing loss, a hearing test is the first step in the direction of getting the treatment you need! Contact us to learn more.