Age-related hearing problems: Causes, diagnosis, and treatment

Updated: Feb 8

When a person undergoes the process of aging, he or she experiences a large number of changes in the body through alterations in the functioning of one's body. Loss of hearing is one of such changes that one faces in the body. Loss of hearing as a result of the process of aging is a commonly encountered health condition that affects adults of old age groups. Approximately one in every two adults who are over 65 years or above age usually reports some amount of loss in hearing.


Top hearing problems

The term used for loss of hearing with age is also termed “presbycusis”. Though it is not a condition that can be threatening to one’s life and may have a large impact on one’s quality of life if it is not treated on time.


Loss in hearing ability that is related to one's advancing age is caused by the slow pace of ability to hear from both ears. It is a very common issue that occurs with age. Approximately thirty out of a total of 100 adult individuals who are aged above 65 years suffer from loss of hearing. This process of loss of hearing is a slow progressive event hence, most people do not notice it at first instance. It is required for a person to stay away from constant and continued exposures to louder levels of sounds or noises that may help in protecting one’s hearing and also, help in preventing gradual loss of hearing. Since the loss of hearing is an irreversible health condition its prevention is also very important.


causes of hearing loss in adults

Symptoms related to age-linked loss of hearing ability usually begin when the person is unable to listen to high-pitched sounds. One begins to notice early symptoms when they face difficulties in hearing normal sounds. Also, there might be some difficulty in listening to background sounds or in hearing others talk. Besides this, there may be additional symptoms that may include:

a) few sounds which are extremely loud to hear

b) difficulty in hearing voices in noisy areas

c) difficulty to differentiate between the sounds “s” and “th”

d) presence of ringing sound in ears

e) when one starts increasing volume of television and radio set much louder than before

f) by requesting individuals to repeat their statements and

g) if one is unable to comprehend any conversations while using telephones.


One must immediately notify their doctor if any of the above symptoms arise as these may be the signs and symptoms of any other medical problem that should be diagnosed and treated by a specialized doctor.



What are the causes of age-related hearing loss?

hearing problem causes

Hearing loss occurs slowly over time as a person ages. Numerous changes within the inner ear can result in gradual loss of hearing. These are —

a) any changes within structural components of the inner ear

b) any alterations in the inflow of blood to the inner ear

c) any damage or impairment to nerves that are responsible for causing loss of hearing

d) any changes in the processing of speech as well as sounds by the brain

e) damage to tiny-sized hairs in the inner ear that are responsible for the transmission of sound waves to the brain.


Apart from this, loss of hearing as a person ages may be caused by various other health problems like type 2 diabetes, changes or defects in circulation, exposure due to loud sounds, when one is taking medications that can result in loss of hearing over a long period if a person has a family history associated with loss of hearing and habit of smoking.



How can these hearing problems be diagnosed?

If a person shows symptoms related to age-linked loss of hearing, one must consult his or her doctor for diagnosing the physical condition. The doctors perform a complete physical examination to determine if there are any other reasons for the loss of hearing. The doctors examine by looking within one’s ears by making use of an instrument known as “otoscope”.

hearing problems treatment

If a doctor cannot detect any other reasons for presenting symptoms, they might be diagnosing a person with age-associated loss of hearing. Following this, they might write a referral for any specialist who deals with hearing problems and who is known as the ‘Audiologist’. These audiologists perform a specialized test for hearing that can help in determining the amount of loss in hearing that has taken place.



What is the treatment for age-related hearing problems?

At present, there is no available cure for the hearing loss associated with the process of aging. If a person has been diagnosed with this defect, one's doctor shall be helping a person in improving their hearing along with the quality of life. For this, the doctor might be recommending —

a) use of hearing aids that may help an individual to hear in a better manner

b) by advising the use of assistive appliances or devices like telephonic amplifiers and

c) by providing lessons designed in “sign language” or by training a person in “lip reading” in cases of severe loss of hearing.


Best hearing problems treatment

In some special situations, a doctor might be recommending the use of a “cochlear” implant which is a small-sized electronic apparatus or device that can be implanted using surgery in one’s inner ear. The use of cochlear implants can allow one to hear all sounds louder than before, however, they cannot restore one’s normal levels of hearing. This option may be used for individuals who suffer from severe loss of hearing.


One must discuss with their attending doctor the available options for treatment. One must not forget to enquire regarding what can be done for minimizing the detrimental effects of loss of hearing on one's day-to-day life.



How can our healthcare services help in assisting people with aging-associated hearing problems?

Our health care services can help by providing consultations with specialist audiologists or doctors who can perform surgical implants, wherever needed. Therapists who can help with the learning of sign language or reading of lips can also be made available by us.

It might not be possible to prevent any loss of hearing that is related to advancing age. Hence, one must take essential steps to prevent the worsening of related symptoms with time. If someone is experiencing progressive loss of hearing due to increasing age, one must try to follow certain preventive measures such as:

a) Avoidance of repetitive exposures to high decibels of sounds

b) one must wear protective aids in the ears especially, in locations with loud levels of sounds and

c) by careful control of one’s levels of blood glucose in case one has diabetes.


In case one develops any of the symptoms related to loss of hearing immediately doctor’s advice should be sought. As there is an increase in the hearing deficit, one can also significantly lose one’s ability for understanding speech. Hence, for retaining or minimizing loss of hearing/speech it is essential to look for earlier treatment.







References
  1. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hearing-loss-common-problem-older-adults

  2. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/presbycusis

  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hearing-loss/symptoms-causes/syc-20373072



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