How to Prevent Hearing Loss in Old Age?
Age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, is hearing loss that occurs as we grow up. It is from the common conditions that affect adults. Having it ignored or untreated can make it worse.
Having trouble hearing at an old age can make it very hard to understand or follow a doctor’s advice, hear the phone or doorbell, or even respond to warnings. It can negatively affect the social life where the person finds it hard to enjoy talking with family and friends.
It starts with problems hearing high-pitched sounds and over time, it starts to affect the lower-pitched sounds as well. The main cause of it is the breakdown of hair cells in the inner ear.
Many seniors refuse to admit that they have trouble hearing at first. This is because they lose their hearing very slowly and not drastically. As they age, the chance of developing hearing loss increases. Small changes start to take place such as turning up the TV volume or standing closer to the person talking.
Why do we lose our hearing ability as we get older?
Our ears get affected by several factors as we grow old. Presbycusis starts showing gradually as the person grows older. It usually occurs in both ears, affecting them evenly.
As old people, we usually encounter changes in the inner and middle ear, along with complex changes in the nerve pathways from the ear to the brain.
Long-term noise exposure is one of the common causes of hearing loss.
Some medical conditions common in older people can play a huge role, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart conditions.
Ototoxic medications such as chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, or even aspirin are toxic to the sensory cells in the ears.
Abnormalities of the middle ear, commonly known as otosclerosis, can worsen our hearing with age.
What are the signs of hearing loss in old age?
Some people who face hearing loss in old age, have hearing problems, but they don’t realize it because the loss is gradual. Others may detect changes in their hearing, which might be symptoms of hearing loss. Some of these signs may include:
Having trouble understanding what others are saying over the phone
Not being able to follow regular conversations
Asking people to repeat what is being said several times
Turning up the volume of the TV so loud that it bothers the people around
Not understanding what children and people with high-pitched voices say
What are the effects of hearing loss as we grow older?
Hearing loss is always associated with cognitive health. Old adults with hearing loss have a greater risk of developing dementia than old adults with normal hearing. That is why cognitive decline is faster in older adults.
Old adults who cannot hear well might become depressed or withdrawn from others for many reasons. Sometimes they feel embarrassed by their current situation and other times, they feel frustrated from not understanding what others are saying. In certain situations, they might mistakenly give the impression that they are confused, uncooperative, or unresponsive because they are not hearing well.
Social isolation and loneliness
The above circumstances lead the old adult with hearing loss to feel lonely and socially isolated. In some moments, hearing loss is linked to an increased risk of falls. This affects public and personal safety and that is one of the reasons why a person with hearing loss might become isolated or away from all social gatherings.
How can we prevent hearing loss as we grow older?
The good news? We can protect our hearing from hearing loss and keep age-related hearing loss from getting worse. There are hearing solutions and hearing-impaired devices for the home that can help us hear and communicate more easily. They range from hearing aids to telephone amplifiers, pagers, tablets, and smartphones. There is a step you can also take and that is asking your friends and family to make certain adjustments when talking to you. These might include speaking more clearly with a higher voice or facing you when talking so you can better see their gestures and facial expressions.
Here are some tips to help our ears stay as sharp as possible:
Avoid too much noise and loud places.
Seniors must stay away from loud and persistent noises that damage the inner ear parts. Repeated exposure to loud noises can cause many problems because it wears down the sensory hairs as time passes. Limit loud sounds in your daily life because they will damage the tiny sensory hairs that are found in the ears.
Have your hearing tested regularly.
Always test your hearing, especially when you start feeling changes. Check your hearing immediately if you feel a sudden change in what you can hear that you cannot explain. This could be a symptom of other serious medical problems.
Getting hearing tests done regularly is one of the best ways to prevent hearing loss.
Wear hearing aids!
Hearing aids aim to make sounds louder and purer. They don’t restore hearing back to normal, or cure hearing loss, but they can help make life easier for those who suffer from hearing loss.
There are distinctive types and models of hearing aids. Each type comes with different features, sizes, and shapes. The most common ones suitable for presbycusis are with receiver completely-in-the-canal (CIC) and receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) because they are easy to use and very discreet.
Learn about the symptoms of hearing loss.
Many seniors are not aware of hearing loss symptoms. They consider them as part of the process of growing old. Ringing in the ears, known as tinnitus, fullness in the ears, pain in one ear or both, and sudden changes in hearing are all symptoms that might indicate something is wrong, and thereby, a thorough test should be performed.
Wear hearing protection.
When hearing loud noises, wearing protective devices is essential, especially when exposed to noises of 85 decibels or higher. If you know you will be around loud noises, think about using protection for your ears, such as:
Earplugs. Made of foam or rubber, they fit in the ear canal. They can reduce the noise levels evenly across all frequencies.
Earmuffs. They fit completely over both ears to block the sound. Earmuffs and earplugs can be worn together for greater protection.
If you know you will be at a concert, an airport, a gun range, or around a fireworks show, wear the protective devices designed to protect your ears.
Remove earwax properly and regularly.
Poor hygiene can cause earwax buildup and this buildup of wax in the ears can muffle sound. If it gets compacted in the ears, you will need the help of the doctor to remove it.
Check medications for hearing risks.
Almost 200 drugs have side effects and can damage hearing, including cancer-fighting drugs and antibiotics. Even high doses of aspirin can cause damage to the ears. It is very important then to check with your doctor when you take a prescription medication to make sure that it won’t make any impact on your hearing.
Manage your cardiac health and blood pressure.
High blood pressure and heart disease, when related to hearing loss, damage the tiny hairs that provide the cells in the ear with nourishment and oxygen. They harm the fragile mechanisms inside the ear that aid in hearing.
To prevent it, you can reduce your sodium intake, drink plenty of water, avoid stress, and talk to your doctor about the most suitable medication.
Maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
Diabetic seniors face a higher risk of hearing loss because high blood glucose levels damage the blood vessels and the nerves in the ears. To prevent this from happening, diabetic people need to cautiously monitor their blood sugar levels.
Exercise and practice stress reduction.
Exercising improves blood flow and helps our body in unlimited and countless ways. Keeping our stress levels under control also helps in keeping our hearing healthy.
Wearing hearing protection, following the doctor’s orders, and adopting a healthy lifestyle can all go a long way to protecting your hearing health. Apply these lifestyle tips above to lead a normal life with the least negative effects possible.