Hearing loss can be a troublesome part of getting older, but you don't have to struggle to cope with hearing loss alone. Seeking help from your doctor and the people around you can help you manage hearing loss and improve your symptoms. Below, you can find out whether hearing loss is normal in seniors and when to seek medical assistance.
Hearing loss is a common health problem in older adults. Hearing loss sometimes runs in families, and certain genetic hearing problems may not show up until later in life.
Several other factors can increase your risk of getting hearing problems as a senior. These include:
Hearing loss in older adults often has more than one root cause. Therefore, many people with health- or medication-related hearing problems also have noise-related hearing loss.
Age-related hearing loss often gets worse gradually, so it may take a while for you to notice that you have difficulty hearing. Older adults often experience more difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds like a phone ringing or children's voices.
You may also notice that you need to turn up the volume on your television or phone to hear properly. Some older adults with hearing loss also report difficulty following a conversation in noisy places like stores and restaurants. Tinnitus is another hearing problem common in older age that causes a chirping, ringing or whooshing sound in the ears.
Hearing loss can cause additional problems beyond these symptoms. For example, some older adults feel depressed or anxious if they can no longer properly hear what's going on around them. Hearing loss can also cause others to mistakenly think you're confused or uncooperative if you can't hear what they're saying.
Developing problems with your hearing is often a normal symptom of getting older. According to the National Institute of Aging (NIH), around a third of people between ages 65 and 74 experience hearing loss to some degree. This figure rises to around half of people by age 75 and over. However, hearing loss can sometimes signify an underlying medical condition, such as high blood pressure.
Hearing loss may be a typical part of aging, but that doesn't mean you have to tolerate it. Hearing loss can make it harder to communicate with people around you and enjoy everyday activities like phoning loved ones and watching TV. There's also evidence that having untreated hearing loss could increase a person's risk of developing dementia.
Therefore, it's worth seeking advice and treatment from your doctor when you notice hearing loss to stop the problem from getting worse and improve your quality of life. The health care team at the Bethesda Gardens assisted living community in Arlington can also provide advice if you're concerned about your hearing.
However, sudden hearing loss that occurs all at once or over a few days could be a medical emergency. It's best to seek urgent assistance if your ability to hear suddenly declines.
Doctors can often treat age-related hearing loss successfully. Sometimes, simple medical procedures like earwax removal are all that's required to treat mild hearing loss and tinnitus.
Your doctor may recommend wearing a hearing aid if your hearing loss makes it challenging to communicate and participate in your normal activities. These devices are worn in the ear and amplify sound to make it easier to hear. They may also suggest a cochlear implant, a medical device that helps people with severe hearing loss hear more clearly.
There are also various assistive devices and services available to help people with hearing loss. For example, you can get devices that give a visual signal when your doorbell or phone rings or to alert you to your fire alarm going off.
The most important step toward coping with age-related hearing loss is seeking assistance from your health care provider. Your doctor can check for any underlying conditions that might be affecting your hearing and offer treatment to help you hear more clearly.
However, it can also help to let people around you know that you are experiencing hearing loss. Some older adults feel embarrassed to share that they have hearing problems, but making others aware can make communication easier. For example, you could consider asking people to speak more clearly and slowly and ensure that they're facing you when they speak. Sitting in quieter areas to have conversations can also be helpful.
Members of the Bethesda Gardens assisted living community in Arlington can always reach out to the on-site team for assistance with hearing loss. Staff members can help by tailoring their communication to your needs and providing practical and emotional support.