Age-Related Hearing Loss is Often Untreated

Age-Related Hearing Loss is Often Untreated

Olga Lis, MS, CCC-A

Many people underestimate the importance of treating hearing loss. It is thought of as an ear issue when first and foremost it is a communication issue. Humans are social creatures, and it not only helps us feel connected but keeps us thinking and feeling sharp. This is particularly important as we age. Older adults are more prone to loneliness due to the loss of loved ones, retirement, or even loss of mobility. The likeliness of hearing loss in seniors can further exacerbate these issues. One in three people over the age of 65 will suffer from hearing loss and this number jumps to one in two, half of all seniors over 75. However, despite the likeliness of this chronic condition for seniors, hearing loss is often undiagnosed, unaddressed, and untreated. 

Age-Related Hearing Loss

The scientific name for age-related hearing loss is presbycusis and it is caused by the natural breakdown of the systems of the auditory system over years of use. This often affects tiny hair-like cells called stereocilia which are responsible for transforming audio vibrations into electrical impulses and sending them from the ears to the brain, to be processed and comprehended. This is called sensorineural hearing loss and leaves millions of adults and children in the US with permanent hearing loss.

Undiagnosed, Unaddressed, and Untreated

Even though hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic health condition facing older adults, many don’t consider it could happen to them. For instance, many people don’t consider themselves as “old” at the age of 65 and that makes sense. You may feel active, strong, and vibrant, at the top of your career, with no sign of slowing down. However, just because you are feeling healthy, doesn’t mean you don’t have to maintain your health. Ignoring hearing loss is a big mistake. It’s not just hearing that is affected but the impact on communication. Older adults living with untreated hearing loss often suffer from chronic depression, anxiety, and isolation which can progress quickly to higher risks of cognitive decline leading to dementia and increased risk of accidents and falls which lead to hospitalizations and even mortality.

 

 Even so, of the millions of older adults who could benefit from hearing loss, only 20% seek treatment. It’s all too common for people to put off addressing hearing loss on average for 7-10 years – until it is severe enough that they struggle to hear, even in the most ideal of listening environments. 

 

Signs of Hearing Loss

The issue is that hearing loss often begins subtly enough that it doesn’t immediately affect your day-to-day. However, over years, as hearing loss progresses it can start to have devastating effects on your quality of life. Relationships that used to feel strong and make you feel connected, leave you feeling alone instead. It’s all too normal for people with hearing loss to become isolated, chronically depressed, anxious, be less likely to try new things, and even suffer from cognitive decline. However, if you know the signs of hearing loss you can decide to screen for hearing and take control of your life again. The most common sign is the need to ask people to repeat what they’ve said. Other symptoms include speech sounding muffled, needing to turn up the TV higher than others, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and trouble hearing over the phone.

 

Benefits of Treating Hearing Loss

While sensorineural hearing loss is permanent it can be treated effectively using hearing aids. These amazing devices can amplify the specific tones or pitches that you as an individual struggle with your hearing loss. This miraculously allows people who have often struggled to hear others for years to slowly reconnect, feel a part of conversations, and take control of their life again. You can enjoy the benefits of higher earning power in the workplace, reduced risk of cognitive decline, reduced tinnitus symptoms, more awareness of space allowing you to be more confident, and a greater general sense of well-being. 

What are you waiting for? The first step is to schedule a hearing test today and take your life back into your control! We can help diagnose your hearing loss and help you find the best solution for all your hearing needs.