Hearing Loss and Aging

Hearing loss is a serious problem as people age and can lead to isolation, depression and social withdrawal.

Many people experience mild to moderate hearing loss between the ages of 65 to 74 years old, and it’s been estimated that as many as 48% of those over age 84 may experience significant hearing loss. According to the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association, there are currently more than 10,000,000 older Americans with age related hearing loss. Fortunately, because of medical advances and modern technology, there are solutions for most who are experiencing hearing impairment.

The most common form of hearing impairment in the aging population is presbycusis, which results from the natural aging process of the central and peripheral auditory systems. Symptoms of hearing loss include difficulty hearing high pitched sounds, including the voices of women and children, and tolerating loud noise, including television or radio volume set at a level that others are unable to tolerate. Those with hearing loss may also experience problems hearing conversations above background noise. Because of hearing impairment, the elderly may stop participating in social activities and become withdrawn, at the very time in their life when regular communication with others is critical to their mental and emotional wellbeing.

If you suspect an elderly family member suffers from hearing loss it is essential to see a professional.  A physician can make a referral to an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat specialist), or an audiologist (a health care professional who specializes in hearing loss). An audiologist will conduct a hearing test by using an audiometer to check the level of hearing impairment. They will determine whether a hearing aid or another type of assistive device is necessary. In addition to hearing aids, or surgical implants, there are other forms of assistive devices available for the hard of hearing, such as closed caption TV, alert systems and hearing impaired telephone devices. If you suspect a loved one has a hearing impairment, get help immediately. Untreated age related hearing loss can result in isolation, frustration, limited social interactions, loneliness, and a loss of independence. Many treatments and assistive devices can restore life’s enjoyment to those with age related hearing loss and allow full participation in daily and social activities.

Author:  Michelle Graham, CSA, Certified Senior Advisor, CIRS-A, CAP, Eldercare Consultant, CEO and Founder of Graham & Graham LLC

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