As we get older, it’s common to experience at least some degree of hearing loss. But why is this? And what should you do if you’re finding it harder to hear than before?
Why Do We Experience Hearing Loss as We Age?
The hearing loss that’s associated with aging is a type of sensorineural hearing loss which occurs when there’s damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or the hearing nerve in the brain. This damage is usually caused by aging or exposure to loud noises over many years.
Age-related hearing loss often starts out very mild, getting more severe over a number of years. This means that you may not even notice and may subconsciously develop coping mechanisms – such as turning up the TV or standing closer than usual in a conversation. In fact, it’s often a person’s family and friends who notice the hearing loss first. And it takes on average seven years from the onset of symptoms for a person to seek medical help.
This is unfortunate as hearing loss can have a negative affect on a person’s social and physical health in a number of ways, including:
- Social isolation
- Mobility issues
- Cognitive decline
If you notice any of the symptoms of hearing loss, it’s time to visit your GP because there’s a lot that can be done to improve your quality of life.
Some common symptoms of hearing loss include
- Asking people to repeat themselves
- Straining to hear
- Misunderstanding people
- Turning the TV up louder than usual
- Struggling to hear on the phone
- Speaking louder than usual
- Thinking that people always mumble
- Avoiding social situations
- Ringing in your ears
- Favouring one ear
When you go to your doctor, they’ll give you a formal diagnosis and explore your options with you. Although there’s no cure for age-related hearing loss, there are many devices that can help you make the most of your remaining hearing and improve your quality of life.
- Hearing aids.These are small, electronic devices which go in your ear and amplify sounds. There are several different types, ranging from behind-the-ear hearing aids, to in-ear ones that are so small most people won’t notice you’re wearing them
- Hearing implants.
If hearing aids don’t help you, a hearing implant might be the right choice. This is a device that’s attached to your skull and sends signals directly into your inner ear or brain.
- Sign language and lip reading For those with severe hearing loss that isn’t sufficiently improved by hearing aids or implants, sign language and lip reading can be used to help boost your ability to communicate.
Age-related hearing loss can be difficult to come to terms with – which is why so many people wait so long to visit their doctor. However, we encourage you to seek help, as there’s a lot that you can do to improve your quality of life.