Age-Related Hearing Loss is Often Untreated

Jesse Western

Hearing loss affects 466 million people or 5% of the world’s total population, causing serious communication issues. There are many causes of hearing loss including exposure to excessive noise, certain medications and head trauma that affect people of all ages, but the most common cause is age related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis. Presbycusis affects 1 in 3 seniors as they reach 65 and 1 in 2 of all seniors over 75. As you approach this age bracket the chances you are dealing with age related hearing loss are extremely likely.

What Causes Age Related Hearing Loss?

As we age our ears age too. While presbycusis is not technically a natural part of aging, a lifetime of exposure to noise, lifestyle choices and family history can contribute to this type of hearing loss. 

Most commonly, presbycusis is caused by changes in the inner ear that occur as you age as the tiny hairs, called cilia, responsible for transmitting audio information to your brain become damaged or destroyed. It is important to understand that while this type of hearing damage is irreversible, hearing aids can allow seniors to participate in conversation and remain connected and active for years to come. 

It is important to realize that even though hearing aids can help, on average, it takes a person 7 years from the time they recognize that they have hearing loss to when they get hearing aids. Even then, of seniors 70 and older that could benefit from hearing aids only about 30 ever use them.

Dangers of Untreated hearing loss

Many people don’t understand that untreated hearing loss is more than a hearing issue, but a communication issue. Healthy communication allows us to connect to the people in our life that we love and inspire us. It also allows us to communicate clearly at work. 

When communication struggles, due to undiagnosed or ignored hearing loss, relationships become strained and self confidence suffers as people struggle to succeed at work and home. This can lead to low-self esteem and a lack of independence, as people withdraw into depression and anxiety around social situations, leading to self isolation. 

When hearing loss is left untreated for a long time it can result in cognitive impairment as certain parts of the brain deteriorate with less audio stimulation. The brain has to overcompensate, becomes strained, fatigued and can brain atrophy, raising the risk for developing dementia. In addition, a lack of awareness of the environment due to less audio cues in a space can increase the risk of falls and hospitalizations and even death in seniors with untreated hearing loss.

Knowing the Signs of Presbycusis

Understanding the risks of not treating presbycusis will hopefully encourage more and more seniors to seek treatment for their condition before it develops into a greater problem. However many do not realize they have a problem at all. Presbycusis often develops slowly over time, with certain pitches or sounds diminishing first. Often people become used to the way they hear and do not even realize they haven’t heard the sounds of birds or the leaves rustling in the wind for years. It is often loved ones that suggest to the seniors in their life that they have a hearing loss. 

If you can identify some of the tell tale signs of hearing loss you do not have to wait for it to get to such a serious point. If you notice that you are having to ask people to repeat themselves more and more often, if you find that you need the TV turned up louder than the other people in the room consistently, if you struggle to follow conversation amongst background noise, or certain pitches hurt your ears, then it is likely that you have some degree of presbycusis.

Explore Your Options

Hearing aids often will surprise people who have let their hearing loss progress. The sound you can hear may shock you. The good news is, once you get used to using hearing aids that you can enjoy the inclusion that comes with being able to hear and participate in conversations again. Your relationships can continue to flourish and you can enjoy a greater sense of independence.

Don’t put off dealing with your hearing loss another day. Make an appointment to have your hearing checked and get on the path towards healthy hearing into your golden years.