When people think of growing older, they often think that losing their hearing is simply part of the process. While the incidence of hearing loss does increase with age, it stems from several factors and can often be prevented or slowed.
Age-Related Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is not inevitable as you age. Often, several factors come into play with hearing loss.
- Noise-related loss- Even if you haven’t spent decades with loud music blastic into your ears via earbuds, you might have damaged your hearing with exposure to loud noises. Whether you spent years on a construction site with ear-piercing machinery, or too many years riding a loud motorcycle with no earplugs, you may have hearing loss from overexposure to high decibels of noise. Safe noises are under 85 decibels, but many everyday things like mowing the lawn or being near emergency sirens can cause damage.
- Medical conditions- As you age, diseases that become more common can actually damage your hearing. Diabetes and high blood pressure are both known to affect hearing. Meniere’s Disease becomes more common with age, and causes hearing loss, seemingly overnight. Presbycusis is a sort of hearing loss that occurs in the inner ear, most often in your later years.
- Pharmaceuticals- Certain medications can cause hearing loss, sometimes irreversible. Large doses of aspirin, certain antibiotics, chemotherapy regimens, and diuretics have all been shown to cause hearing loss, and doctors should be made immediately aware if you experience any change in hearing with a medication.
- Physical abnormalities of the ear- Otosclerosis, which affects the bones in the middle ear and typically begins in middle age, can cause hearing loss. Reduced function or damage to the eardrum can occur with time and exacerbate hearing loss. Certain tumors, like an acoustic neuroma, can cause hearing loss.
Hearing loss often creeps up on you, with signs so subtle that you may not notice your hearing has changed. Often, those around you may notice a change in your hearing before you are aware of it. If you have noticed some of the following signs, please see a hearing specialist to have your ears evaluated.
- Trouble hearing voices at a normal volume, especially when background noise is present.
- Ringing in the ear, or tinnitus.
- Avoidance of crowds or noisy places because you cannot hear in them.
- Asking people to repeat themselves or to speak louder.
- A need to turn the volume up on the Tv that is loud to others.
- Inability to hear high-pitched noises, like bells or voices.
- Exhaustion from listening, also known as called cognitive overload.
- Isolating yourself to avoid having to hear at all.
Some hearing loss may have already occurred by the time you read this. You may not be able to undo prior damage, but you can take steps to prevent further damage. Avoid prolonged exposure to loud volumes. Protect your ears with earplugs, noise cancelling headphones if you use headphones, and simple avoid of high volumes. Take care of any existing conditions you may have, whether you need to work on controlling your high blood pressure or managing your diabetes.
If you think that you or a loved one have hearing loss, related to aging or otherwise, do not hesitate to seek help. A knowledgeable hearing specialist can detect hearing loss, help you seek help for any underlying health concerns, and get you on the path to correcting your hearing loss. Growing older does not have to include losing your hearing- we have hearing aids that can have you hearing everything from your grandchildren to music again!