Our guest post this week, by Melaine Lewis with Hearing Direct, explains the details of hearing loss and recommended courses of action.
Hearing loss can occur due to a number of reasons, these can be due to changes that the body undergoes (age-related) or more man-made reasons such as exposure to harmful noise. According to Kochkin’s 2008 survey (*MarkeTrak VIII) 35 million Americans are thought to present the symptoms of impaired hearing and the number is projected to increase to 40 million by 2025.
The biggest group and the subject of this post are the age-related (Presbycusis) hearing loss suffers whose condition is often misunderstood. Many sufferers chose to ‘accept’ diminished hearing as a given fact, though modern healthcare offers means to mange the condition so its influence on daily lives is minimized.
What Is Age-Related Hearing Loss?
Let’s start by explaining what it isn’t. It isn’t a condition that an individual can control like noise induced hearing loss nor does it normally lead to complete hearing loss.
It is a gradual demise in hearing ability known as sensorineural hearing loss. As the body matures, two processes lead to reduced hearing of certain frequencies. The first is degeneration of a part of the inner ear that contains micropscopic blood vessels, while the second process is the decline in sensitive hair cells inside the cochlea (a snail-shell like structure in the inner ear) that gradually become damaged or die due to increases in free radicals that damage certain cells in the body. The body is unable to regrow these hair cells (these are really nerve endings that detect sound) which leads to the categorization of agerelated hearing loss as a permanent one.
What Are The Typical Symptoms Of Age-Related Hearing Loss?
The level of hearing loss will vary between individuals. Some will be able to make simple adjustments in their lifestyle to counteract its affects, while in the case of other individuals the deterioration in hearing ability will require the intervention of modern healthcare.
Symptoms and signs can include:
- Certain sounds seem too loud
- Difficulty following a group conversation
- Difficulty hearing in noisy areas
- Hard to tell high-pitched sounds (such as “s” or “th”) from one another
- Increased difficulty in understanding women and children
- Problems hearing when there is background noise
- Voices that sound mumbled or slurred
What Is The Recommended Course of Action?
If you suspect that you or someone you care for might be experiencing the telltale signs of hearing loss, it should be investigated by your family doctor, local ENT unit or hearing center. Although the most common causes are linked to aging, other causes should also be investigated to be ruled out.
These may include:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Certain infections such as meningitis, mumps, scarlet fever and measles
- Use of certain medicines
- Genetic conditions
- Skull fractures
- Traumatic noisy events
To eliminate and diagnose the precise cause(s), a hearing test will need to be performed. A basic test can be conducted at your family doctor’s practice, though it is likely that you may also need to book a physical audiometry test at your local ENT or hearing center.
Equipped with the result, your healthcare advisor will be able to recommend the most suitable solution from using ALDs (Assistive Listening Devices such as Hearing Aids) or adapting certain communication techniques. In the case of severe hearing loss, learning sign language and even cochlear implants may form part of the recommended options.
Hearing loss does not have to undermine your quality of life. It can and should be managed.
About the Author:
Melanie Lewis is a trained hearing aid audiologist. She works for Hearing Direct, the UK’s biggest supplier of deaf and hard of hearing aids from hearing aid accessories such as batteries to ALDs (Assistive Listening Devices).
* The MarkeTrak VIII survey included 80,000 members of the National Family Opinion (NFO) panel. Of these, 14,623 hearing impaired individuals were identified.