Hearing loss is common, especially for seniors. In fact, according to the National Institutes on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, one-third of people ages 65-74 have hearing loss. This number jumps to one-half for those 75 and older. Indeed, a lifetime of noise exposure can take its toll on the hearing system. This type of hearing loss is known as presbycusis.
How Does Age Contribute to Hearing Loss?
As we age, there is degeneration within the inner ear and nerve pathways to the brain. In most cases, the damage is specifically to the stereocilia – tiny hair cells responsible for converting soundwaves into electrical energy that the brain interprets as sound. Once damaged, these cells cannot regenerate or regrow, and the result is permanent sensorineural hearing loss.
Risk Factors for Age-Related Hearing Loss
There is no sure way to predict whether you will lose your hearing as you age. Factors that affect hearing over time include genetics, medical history and exposure to unsafe noise levels. Below are some questions to ask yourself to determine your risk level:
- Do your parents have hearing loss? If so, you may have inherited that trait.
- Do you have heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or other circulatory problems? These conditions affect the blood supply to the middle ear and are associated with hearing loss.
- Do you take ototoxic medications? This means drugs that list hearing loss or tinnitus as possible side effects. Aspirin in high doses, certain antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs are ototoxic.
- Are you frequently exposed to loud noises? Military personnel, construction workers and musicians are all at an increased risk for hearing loss later in life.
What Are the Symptoms of Age-Related Hearing Loss?
Presbycusis is a progressive condition, meaning it develops slowly over time. Many are unaware they have an issue with their hearing until it has progressed to an advanced stage. Early symptoms to look out for include:
- The perception that people are mumbling or slurring. Many feel that they can hear just fine, but they struggle to make out individual words.
- Difficulty having conversations when background noise is present.
- Certain sounds seeming overly loud or bothersome.
- Trouble hearing high-pitch sounds like birds chirping, the phone ringing or the voices of children.
- Tinnitus, which is the perception of sound (usually ringing) when none is present.
Left untreated, hearing loss can have devastating impacts. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the Hearing Center of Lake Charles today.