Everything you need to know about age-related hearing loss

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World Hearing Day is held on 3 March every year to raise awareness about how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and promoting ear and hearing care. Many old people go through severe stress and isolation as they experience hearing loss. Dr. Shibu George, professor of Department of ENT, Kottayam Medical College explains hearing loss in old people and shares some tips to overcome it.

Weakened auditory nerves
One of the major reasons for age related hearing loss is presbycusis. It is a condition that occurs gradually due to the weakening of the auditory nerves. Most people are likely to experience this. It is common that the nerves begin to weaken between 60 – 65 years. The loss of hearing isn’t experienced in just one ear. Age related hearing loss most often occurs in both the ears, affecting them equally. Patients often complain of buzzing sounds inside their ears.

Symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored
Asking the speaker to speak slowly, speak loudly and clearly, ask to repeat what they have said or increase the volume of television/ radio thinking that they aren’t loud enough or repeating your questions, while speaking on the phone, as things haven’t been clear are some of the symptoms of presbycusis that shouldn’t be ignored.

Mental readiness
It must be difficult for many to admit that their hearing capacity has decreased. If asked about their hearing, most of them would say that they could hear but couldn’t understand anything. In old people, the ability to hear high frequency sounds are lost in the initial stages.

Lip movements
When they realise that they are experiencing hearing loss, they would look to the lips of the speaker to make out what the latter is saying. They try to understand through the lip movements. Besides, people with low hearing tries to speak loudly.

This is the time when old people need support and help from the family members. Old people shouldn’t be mocked for their hearing loss. You must remember that everyone will go through this stage, later in their lives. Make sure to stand in front of a person who experiences hearing loss so that he /she can understand the conversation by observing your lip movements. Do not speak loudly by standing close to their ear, thinking that it would make them hear better. When you speak boldly and loudly, by standing close to their ears, they would only feel a loud band inside their ears.

Audiogram is the most common test done to determine hearing loss. This would help the doctor understand whether the patient has hearing loss and the reasons for it. The audiologist would examine the patient first. It would be considered as hearing loss if the person cannot hear sounds that are more than 20 decibels. The audiologist would determine the extent of the hearing loss by analysing the decibel at which the patient loss hearing. Changes would be made in the hearing aid too as per these readings.

People with lifestyle diseases
Diabetic patients and those who have high blood pressure are prone to hearing loss. Even though some studies suggest that those who have recovered from Covid 19 experiences hearing loss, cases haven’t been widely reported. Those who suffer from life style diseases should occasionally test their hearing.

Hearing aid
Most people do not prefer wearing hearing aids even if they experience hearing loss. Lack of awareness is the main reason for that. Your hearing abilities cannot be restored as before just by wearing the aid. However, it would definitely improve your hearing, helping you hear things with more clarity. Hearing aids are available in analogue and digital modes. Digital hearing aids helps in making you hear conversations clearly. The intensity of the preferred sounds and syllables could be increased or decreased with the help of computer. High quality hearing aids could, to a certain extent, make you hear your own voice, music and phone conversation with natural quality.

Moreover, it cancels unnecessary sounds too. There are hearing aids that could be worn inside or outside the ear. Hearing aids that are worn inside may not be as effective for those who experience severe hearing loss. Those who are settled in foreign countries often gift their parents a pair of expensive hearing aid, if they feel that their aged parents are losing their hearing ability. However, in most cases, these expensive hearing aids may not suit the old people.

Tips to note while using hearing aids
Remove the hearing aid while lying down or taking a bath.
Make sure to change batteries at the right intervals
Buy hearing aids that have sufficient service support. You could ask your doctor about it.
Make sure that the hearing aid doesn’t get wet or drenched in sweat.
It is better to buy aids that could be serviced locally
Hearing aids that are worn inside the ear may not suit aged people. 

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