Hearing loss is a common health concern that develops due to aging, loud noises, diseases, ototoxic medications, and genetics. These factors affect the hair cells located in the inner ear. These specialized hearing cells convert mechanical sound waves into nerve impulses that are transmitted to the brain and perceived as sound.      

As people get older, their hearing gradually declines in both ears. Men are more susceptible to hearing loss, and usually, it occurs in the mid-fifties for them. For women, it can start in the early to mid-sixties as a result of the protective effects of female hormones. Nearly half of the population older than 75 suffers from this condition.

Hearing loss progresses slowly, and some people with hearing problems don't realize it. If hearing impairment is not treated, it can increase the risk of anxiety, depression, and isolation. Hence, people should pay attention to early signs of hearing loss and make an appointment with an audiologist for a hearing test. Here are some of the first signals of age-related hearing loss.

Trouble hearing consonant sounds

Age-related hearing loss mainly starts with affecting the ability to hear high-frequency sounds. As a result, patients have trouble understanding consonant sounds such as "P," "Th," "Sh," "S," "F," and "V." This would lead to impaired speech comprehension, and patients might easily get irritated during conversations. They will also have difficulties hearing other high-frequency sounds, including children's and women's voices, alarm clocks, and microwave beeps.       

Difficulties following conversations in a noisy room

Background noise makes it harder for the patients to understand conversations. They are not able to correctly distinguish noise from speech. Hence, they start to avoid social gatherings where they must converse in a crowded room.

Watching people's lip movements when they talk

Lipreading helps people with hearing impairment to have a better understanding of speech. Instead of making eye contact, patients look at the speaker's mouth. Recognizing the lip gestures, shapes, and facial movements when talking helps the patients "see" the sounds instead of hearing them.  

Ringing in the ears

Age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss are associated with tinnitus or ringing sound in the ears. According to some researchers, tinnitus develops to fill in the missing frequencies.

Increasing the volume of the TV

Television includes a mixture of different sounds: high-frequency and low-frequency. Patients keep the volume up to understand all these sounds. They might not realize how loud the TV is until family members start complaining.

Difficulties talking on the phone

Talking on the phone becomes more challenging, as the sound goes only in one ear. This may be harder when using the more affected ear. In addition, telephones have poorer speech sound quality.

What to do next?

Age-related hearing loss cannot be recovered as the damage to the hair cells is permanent. However, it can be treated with hearing aids or cochlear implants. These devices can significantly improve hearing and overall quality of life.

 

 

   

References

https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/hearing-loss-signs

https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2021/hearing-loss-signs.html

https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52992-5-early-signs-of-hearing-loss

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hearing-and-hearing-loss/hearing-loss-common-problem-older-adults

 

December 26, 2023 — Jinxxx