Age-related hearing loss, known as presbycusis, happens to many people as they approach their senior years. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, about 30 percent of people between 65 and 75 have some level of hearing loss. Those over 75 years of age have a 45 percent chance of significant hearing loss.
Patients can have mild, moderate, or severe hearing loss due to this condition.
Symptoms and Causes
People experience different symptoms with presbycusis. The main problem for many is the inability to hear high-pitched noises.The high pitched sound of a bird chirping is completely lost while the low rumble of an engine is loud and clear. A man’s voice is easier to understand than a woman’s voice due to the difference in pitch. Conversations become difficult with background noise. Some patients also experience ringing in the ears (tinnitus) as well.
Over time, many people experience a gradual loss of hearing due to a number of factors. The list includes heredity, aging, health conditions, certain medicines, changes to the ear’s blood supply, and constant exposure to everyday loud noises.
When a person begins to suspect hearing loss, he or she should first visit regular doctor. The doctor can run tests to make sure other medical conditions are not causing the problem.
If the regular doctor cannot pinpoint the problem, the next step is a referral to a otolaryngologist, better known as an ear, nose, and throat specialist. This specialist will evaluate the patient and run further tests. They may ask that the patient see an audiologist for a full range audio test of the patient’s hearing.
The audiologist will check the hearing and help identify what type of hearing loss is present. That information will help the doctor determine the best way to handle the condition.
Dealing with Presbycusis
What can a person do after verifying the hearing loss?
Hearing aids are a common choice for those dealing with presbycusis. After the patient sees the audiologist, the otolaryngologist can decide if a hearing aid is the best option. Based on the type of hearing loss and the amount of loss, the doctor and audiologist will recommend a certain type of hearing aid for the patient. Assisted hearing devices are another option. These devices amplify noises in the immediate area and the patient uses an ear phone to listen to the amplified output.
Besides using a hearing aid or an assisted hearing device, many people learn some level of speech reading which allows them to take non-verbal cues to know what people are saying.
There are some ways to make communication easier on those dealing with presbycusis. When having a conversation, it is important to face the person speaking. Seeing facial expressions and gestures can help the person with the hearing loss understand what the other person is saying. Keep background noise to a minimum. Speak at a normal rate, at a slightly higher volume without shouting. Shouting actually distorts the voice and makes it difficult to understand. Rephrase things into shorter sentences if the person is having trouble following the conversation.
There is no need to suffer with presbycusis. The first step is to see the doctor and determine what is going on. Then a discussion with an audiologist and a hearing specialist can help find the best solution for the problem. Hearing aids are only one way of handling age related hearing loss.
Tom Regev is a professional writer for the Hearing Life in Norman Oklahoma clinic.