Age-related hearing loss is widespread. Over 48 million Americans have difficulty hearing without a hearing aid, including 1 in 6 baby boomers (ages 41 to 59). Hearing loss due to age usually starts in the 50s. It is often overlooked or dismissed as a normal part of the aging process. In fact, untreated hearing loss can have serious negative consequences on a person’s health, relationships, and career.
Many older adults with hearing loss are still in the workplace. They will lose income as a result of their hearing difficulties. Treating hearing loss with hearing aids, however, offers dramatic improvement. Yet, fewer than 1 in 5 people with hearing loss will take this step. Read on for answers to some common questions about age-related hearing loss and determine why treating it is so important.
How to tell if you’re losing your hearing
Much like diabetes or high blood pressure, the beginning of age-related hearing loss is a slow, insidious process without obvious physical symptoms.
The first sign is maybe a loved one pointing out that you haven’t been hearing them clearly. Of course, the hearing loss will become more apparent once it has progressed. Still, in its early stages, people often ignore their hearing difficulties–or are in denial about them.
Suppose you have started to have trouble with your hearing. In that case, you may be able to hear others clearly one-on-one in quiet places but have difficulty in groups or in the presence of background noise.
The cause of age-related hearing loss
Hearing loss can be present at birth due to genetic or hereditary factors. It can result from infections, noise exposure, head injuries, or taking certain medications. But the most common cause of hearing loss continues to be one simple and unavoidable part of life: aging.
Age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, is caused by the death of specific sensory cells in the inner ear, called hair cells. When hair cells are lost, they cannot grow back, and hearing in specific frequencies becomes more difficult or impossible. Although scientists still don’t know precisely why this slow degeneration occurs, studies show that the adverse health effects can be significantly minimized through hearing aids.
Will everyone eventually have some type of hearing loss?
Hearing loss due to age is one of the most common disorders affecting older adults. It is unavoidable after a certain age. About one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss, and almost half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. By the age of 100, 100 percent of people have hearing loss. At this time, scientists don’t know how to prevent age-related hearing loss, but you can protect your ears from harmful noise to ensure that your hearing stays better for longer.
Why is it so important to treat hearing loss?
In the medical community, hearing loss is no longer viewed as a harmless inconvenience of aging. Countless studies are showing a strong link between untreated hearing loss, cognitive impairment, and dementia. It is thought that processing sounds, as it becomes more complex, places an additional burden on the brain. Untreated hearing loss also increases a person’s chances of becoming isolated and less active, another risk factor for developing dementia. Treating hearing loss is now strongly recommended, as there is such enormous potential benefit and minimal risk.
Another good reason to treat hearing loss is that hearing aids have improved so dramatically in recent years. They are smaller and higher-powered than ever before, offering comfortable listening in a variety of different environments. And many different hearing aids are now capable of connecting directly to the TV or even stream movies via Bluetooth.
The list of reasons to try hearing aids is long: more robust relationships, increased personal safety and mobility, improved cognitive function, and better functioning in the workplace and daily life, to name just a few.
If you or someone you love suffers from age-related hearing loss, our team can get you on the path to better hearing! Make an appointment today.