Presbycusis? What is that? You may know this condition as age-related hearing loss. Over time, people can begin to lose their hearing in tiny unnoticeable amounts. These tiny moments accumulate over time until it becomes a very noticeable problem.
Many people dealing with this condition either do not think they have a problem or have not talked to a doctor about the problem. People with mild levels of presbycusis tend to compensate naturally by moving the head towards sound and asking people to repeat what they said. It is not until they reach a higher level of hearing loss that they realize they have a problem. Some people still refuse to speak with a doctor out of embarrassment. Hearing loss has a negative association with growing older. Without treatment though, hearing loss can have a profoundly negative effect on life.
Understanding the Impact of Prebycusis
What does age-related hearing loss do to a person’s life? The most obvious impact is to their ability to hear. Does any of this seem familiar?
- Talking to a man is easier due to the lower pitch of the male voice. Women’s voices, at a higher pitch, often get lost in the background noise.
- High-pitched sounds in normal human speech is hard to discern or disappear. This includes sounds like “s”, “th”, and “sh”.
- Background noises tend to drown out conversations. The ear has lost its ability to distinguish conversation from other noise.
- Another person’s speech may sound slurred or mumbled. A word like “success” ends up sounding like nonsense because the “s” sounds are lost.
- A ringing or roaring noise in the ear makes already difficult words even harder to distinguish.
Due to the loss of hearing, the effects begin to spread if this condition is left untreated or addressed.
Social isolation begins to accumulate with people who do not seek treatment for their hearing loss. It begins with not being able to take part in some conversations. Large gatherings or meeting in public, where background noise dominates, becomes impossible. Those with hearing loss start to avoid these encounters. Talking on the phone is difficult. Turning up the TV or radio bothers others in the room so there goes that entertainment.
With so much interaction lost, many people with presbycusis suffer with depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.
The good news is that with treatment many see an improvement within just a few weeks.
What to Do About Presbycusis
Presbycusis has no known cure. However, treatment options have become commonly available:
- Amplification Devices – Hearing aids can help a person with presbycusis hear better. These devices fit into the ear. While not a perfect solution, aids can improve hearing enough to improve quality of life a great deal.
- Assistive Listening Devices – These external devices help a person amplify sound without disturbing other people in the room. Devices for the phone and television are just a couple of examples.
- Lip Reading – Learning to lip read can help with face-to-face communications, even if the person is also wearing hearing aids.
Now you know something about presbycusis. This medical condition can hit almost anyone, though older adults suffer more with it than younger ones. If you even suspect you have a hearing loss, seek testing. A otolaryngologist and an audiologist can find if you have hearing loss or not. Plus, treatment is available. There is no reason to suffer any longer.
Tom Regev is a professional writer for the Total Hearing Care Princeton NJ branch.