Undertreated & Undiagnosed: Age-Related Hearing Loss

Undertreated & Undiagnosed: Age-Related Hearing Loss

Are you reaching 60 years of age? You may not feel old, but this still does not exclude you from a group which most categorize as older adults. Today with the help of modern medicine and greater understanding of how to care for ourselves, people can stay feeling young, happy, and healthy, far latter into life than those of the past. This means taking care to keep up with every aspect of your heath, from diet, exercise and managing health conditions before they escalate to a point which impacts your ability to enjoy life to it’s fullest. One health condition which is often overlooked, underestimated, and undertreated is hearing loss.

Hearing loss among older adults

It is estimated that one in three people 65 years and older have hearing loss. Once you reach 75 years and older, your chances of having hearing loss jump to one in two. Age related hearing loss is by far the most common type of hearing loss, due to changes in the inner ear as we age. Also known as presbycusis, due to its common appearance as we age, it’s a good idea to make sure you monitor for it regularly. You may be affected and not know it, due to the gradual nature in which it progresses. 

The Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss on Older Adults

What may start as just the subtle loss of some tones or frequencies can directly impact your ease of socialization and ability to hear the sounds around you whether you realize it or not. Your brain is still forced to struggle to fill in blanks in speech even in the early stages of hearing loss. This means anytime you socialize that you will be forced to have your brain work harder to understand and follow conversation. This can put a strain on every social interaction that you have, leaving you feeling a sense of chronic exhaustion. This is why it’s so common for those with unaddressed hearing issues to avoid social interactions all together, giving way for chronic loneliness, self-isolation, depression and lowered confidence. For older adults, an unaddressed hearing loss can be the start of a general decline in health and quality of life which effects all aspects of well-being.

Hearing Loss in Older Adults and Cognitive Decline

Social interaction is one of the main factors which tethers us to the world and ourselves. When social interaction lessens, our brain is challenged less and becomes compromised. Studies have shown that even a minor hearing loss has caused people to score lower on cognitive testing. Other studies have linked Presbycusis to a greater risk of suffering from dementia than those older adults with normal hearing –for instance, those with a moderate hearing loss are at double the risk while the risk rises with the severity of hearing loss.

Signs of hearing loss

The best thing you can do for you and your overall health is to monitor your hearing health regularly, especially as you approach 50 years of age and beyond. Hearing loss can be difficult to self-diagnose. In fact, it is often a loved one or someone who interacts with you regularly who will notice it first. If someone close to you approaches you, suggesting you have a hearing loss, take it seriously. Signs of hearing loss include:

  • Issues hearing over the phone
  • Needing to ask people to repeat themselves regularly
  • It sounds as though people are mumbling
  • You struggle to hear conversation when background noise is present
  • You turn your TV volume so loud that others complain
  • You struggle to follow a conversation when two or more are involved

Looking out for Presbycusis

When you are aware of your risk you can be proactive and address a potential hearing loss before it starts to take over your life. Presbycusis comes on gradually and often runs in families. By addressing a hearing loss you can take control of your life. The most common treatment for this irreversible condition are hearing aids which are programed based on your hearing exam to amplify the sounds you need to hear, so you can engage again in the life you love. To find out more, schedule a hearing exam today!