Hearing loss is an unfortunate reality that many older people will have to face at some point. According to the National Institute on Aging, one in three people between ages 65-74 have hearing loss, and almost 50% of those older than 75 have trouble hearing.
Besides the more obvious signs of hearing loss—such as straining to hear what others are saying during conversation—there are other, more subtle signs that one may have a hearing problem. Turning up the TV so loudly that it’s a nuisance to others. Assuming others are mumbling when they talk. Difficulty comprehending speech on the telephone.
The National Institute on Aging has composed a fact sheet on types of hearing loss, its causes, and mechanisms for coping. In this article, we’ll share the highlights, edited and adapted from the National Institute on Aging website.
Types of Hearing Loss
- Sudden Hearing Loss – A rapid loss of hearing that comes on suddenly or over a period of three days. This is typically considered a medical emergency and warrants a doctor’s immediate attention.
- Tinnitus – The sound of roaring, clicking, buzzing, hissing, or, most commonly, ringing, in the ears. Though tinnitus is a symptom, it often occurs in the presence of hearing loss. Other health problems that include tinnitus as a symptom include high blood pressure, allergies, or earwax blockage.
- Age-Related Hearing Loss (Presbycusis) – A gradual loss of hearing that often occurs in both ears as a person ages. There may be a genetic component and changes to the inner ear and auditory nerve may occur.
Causes of Hearing Loss
- Loud Noise – The noise from lawnmowers, snow blowers, loud music, construction, or heavy machinery can damage the inner ear, resulting in hearing loss.
- Earwax or Fluid Build-Up – Earwax can block sounds from reaching the inner ear. Infections, pressure, or inserting objects into the ear can also damage or puncture the eardrum.
- Viruses, Bacteria, Heart Condition, Stroke, Brain Injury, Brain Tumor
- Medications – Known as “ototoxic,” some medications used to treat cancer, heart disease, and serious infections may include hearing loss as a side effect. Discuss with your doctor if the benefits of taking certain medications outweigh the possibility of hearing loss.
- Heredity – Some inherited hearing conditions are present at birth, and others are diagnosed later in life.
- Pay attention to facial expressions and gestures if hearing comprehension is difficult.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up if you can’t understand what another person is trying to say.
- Make people aware you have a hearing problem so they know to repeat something if necessary.
- If you’re unsure of what was said, ask the person speaking to reword a sentence.
- Request that people face you while speaking and speak more slowly or clearly. Ask them to speak louder without shouting.
- Seek professional advice from a general practicioner or specialist.
It may be difficult to admit you have a hearing problem, but the problem will only get worse if you leave it untreated. If cost is an issue, CareCredit offers a financing plan that can help alleviate the burden of a large upfront medical bill.
Treating your hearing loss earlier rather than later will ensure that you don’t miss a moment!