It’s not surprising that the older we get, the more likely we are to lose our hearing. That’s because in addition to a lifetime of knowledge, love and wisdom, we also experience a lifetime of noise exposure.
The World Health Organization reports that people age 65 and older are five times more likely to have hearing loss than people under 65. Just as shocking, this population is expected to double in the next 40 years – from 52 million Americans over age 65 in 2018 to 98 million by 2060.
What Is Age-Related Hearing Loss?
Age-related hearing loss is known medically as presbycusis, which is the gradual loss of hearing in both ears. Because changes in hearing tend to be gradual, many people aren’t even aware they have hearing loss until it’s advanced to a stage that greatly affects quality of life and can’t be easily treated. In fact, the average person waits seven years from the time they need treatment for hearing loss to when they actually seek help.
Presbycusis most often affects the ability to hear high-pitch noises, like the phone ringing, microwave beeping or children’s voices. Because low-pitch noises are less affected, it is easy to convince yourself you don’t have a problem.
What Causes Presbycusis?
Age-related hearing loss is due to changes in either the inner ear (most common), middle ear or the nerve pathways to the brain.
Factors that contribute to age-related hearing loss include:
- Continuous exposure to loud noise (especially in the workplace)
- Loss of sensory hair cells in the inner ear
- Genetics/family history
- Health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes
- Side effects of certain medications such as aspirin, antibiotics or chemotherapy drugs
What Are the Symptoms of Age-Related Hearing Loss?
The most common signs and symptoms of presbycusis include:
- Feeling as though people are mumbling
- Speech sounds seem distorted
- Certain consonants (like ‘s’ and ‘th’) are difficult to distinguish
- Conversations are troublesome when background noise is present
- Men’s voices are easier to hear than women’s and children’s
- Certain sounds seem overly loud and bothersome
- You have ringing in the ears
- You turn up the TV much louder than others prefer
- It is difficult or impossible to have a conversation on the phone
If you exhibit any of the above symptoms, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Hearing loss not only affects your relationships with loved ones, but can also lead to anxiety, depression and even dementia.
To schedule an appointment, call the Hearing & Balance Center at Charleston ENT today.