Growing old is a journey and many will tell you it’s not for the faint of heart! While some shy away from growing old and reflect upon times when they were physically and mentally stronger once they reach it, others embraced aging an adventure and something to look forward to. There are so many lessons to learn as we age, and of course new challenges- such as inevitable declines in bone mass, strength, and independence. In an ideal world, to get the most out of our golden years, enjoy retirement, being grandparents and having moments to travel, we are going to want to make sure we address any health concerns proactively before they start ruling our life. This includes hearing loss which becomes increasingly common, especially for many of us once we reach 50 years of age and beyond.
Hearing loss among older adults
Hearing loss is the third most common health concern in the US for older adults – more common than cancer. For those 65 and older it’s reported that one in three will deal with age related hearing loss and this number jumps to half of those 75 years and older. Also known as presbycusis, age related hearing loss occurs due to changes in the inner ear as we age which effect the tiny hair-like cells called stereocilia. Stereocilia are the sole transport of sound from the brain to the ears and when they become damaged it interrupts the signal of the corresponding tones and pitches in which each individual lost cell provided.
Effects of Presbycusis On Social Life and Cognitive Health
Part of aging gracefully as we age is maintaining a healthy social life. It not only helps us stay connected to a support network but helps stimulate our mind and stay more active. Its all too common for those affected by hearing loss who were previously socially active to withdraw into self-imposed isolation and with this comes an increased risk of cognitive decline. When sound can’t reach the brain it’s harder to follow conversation and be more aware of the world around them. This can be exhausting as well as frustrating, making it more difficult for many to want to put forth the energy to stay social. A combination of auditory deprivation mixed with lack of social stimulation puts seniors with unaddressed hearing loss at a disproportionate risk for developing dementia.
Signs of Hearing Loss
However, there is a confusing line in differentiating between an onset of dementia verses hearing loss in seniors. When a senior has hearing loss, they may appear confused, distant, and disinterested in conversation. These are similar side effects of dementia at the beginning. Often addressing a hearing loss will allow a socially isolated older adult to take steps to begin to connect again with the people around them, encouraging them to try new things and socialize with increased confidence. If you or someone you care for is showing these common signs of hearing loss, it’s time to schedule a hearing exam
- Difficulties speaking over the phone
- Issue hearing people with higher pitched voices.
- It sounds as if people are mumbling
- Struggles to hear in crowded places or when background noise is present
- Must ask others to repeat themselves frequently
- Turns up the TV volume so loud that others complain
Addressing Hearing Loss
If you, or someone you love is displaying any of these signs, it’s important to act as soon as possible. It’s important to understand that age related hearing loss is a permanent condition, but it can be addressed and treated effectively using hearing aids. These amazing electronic devices can be programed, based on a hearing exam, to amplify the specific sounds we struggle with so we can hear with improved ease.
Older adults who address their hearing loss with hearing aids are able to connect with the people in their life again. This can allow an improved sense of independence, which will allow you to take advantage to the full potential of your golden years. Unfortunately, of those 65 and older who could benefit from hearing aids, only 30 percent have even tried them. Don’t be part of this statistic. Get the most from aging and schedule a hearing exam with us today.