Although hearing loss and impairment can strike at any age, it tends to be a much more common occurrence as we get older. In fact, it is estimated that one in three people over the age of 65 live with some degree of hearing loss. Prolonged or repetitive exposure to loud noise is a prevalent cause and can lead to permanent hearing damage, but there are also many other factors that can contribute to impaired hearing.
What is Presbycusis?
Presbycusis refers to the gradual loss of hearing experienced by most people as they get older. Of course, the effects of aging on hearing are not the same for everyone as a variety of external elements may come into play.
Environment & Biology
For example, individuals that have been working in a noisy environment day in and day out over the course of several years are at a greater risk for hearing impairment with age. On the other hand, presbycusis can result from physical changes in the inner ear that occur with aging. There are thousands of tiny hairs in the cochlea that pick up sound waves and convert them to nerve signals the brain can understand. As the hair cells become damaged or die off it effects hearing precision and capacity. Once damaged or dead these hair cells do not regenerate.
Presbycusis is typically characterized by a reduced ability to hear high pitch sounds. A good analogy for individuals with unaffected hearing may be to think about what you can hear in your environment with headphones on. For example, when you are wearing headphones you can likely still hear the low pitch rumble of a truck going by on the street, by you may not be able to hear a bird chirping just outside your window. High pitch sounds are often not as easy to pick up on for individuals with presbycusis.
Other Causes of Hearing Loss
Aside from age and perpetual exposure to loud noise, there are some other elements that may lead to hearing impairment, such as:
· Existing health conditions (such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease)
· Viral infection
Hearing Loss Symptoms
Depending on a diverse range of factors, symptoms of hearing impairment can be different for different people. Some warning signs to be on the lookout for, may include:
· Speech of other people sounds muffled or slurred
· Difficulty following conversations
· Trouble blocking out or hearing over background noise
· Problems distinguishing between consonant sounds
· Difficulty hearing high pitch sounds
· Ringing in the ears
· Requiring high volume for TV or radio
· Social withdrawal
As everyday communication becomes more strenuous a typical response for people with hearing issues may be to avoid social interaction to escape embarrassment or stress. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms of hearing loss it is highly recommended to seek professional assistance as soon as possible to minimize damage and improve the quality of daily living.
Impacts of Hearing Loss on Daily Life
Significant hearing loss can have far-reaching effects that can impede the ability to carry out daily routines and enjoy an independent lifestyle. Some effects of hearing impairment that may not be considered, include:
· Risk of cognitive decline
· Compromised safety
· Increased risk for other health conditions
Risk of Cognitive Decline
Studies show that living with even a mild case of hearing loss that is left untreated can as much as double your risk for cognitive decline. More severe cases pose an ever greater danger of mental deterioration causing physical changes in the brain that may lead to the development of dementia.
Constantly struggling to decipher what other people are saying can also negatively affect memory as the strain for comprehension takes away form the brain’s ability to process and store concepts and information.
It is likely no surprise that impaired hearing can compromise personal safety. The inability to hear approaching joggers, cyclists, or even vehicles can quickly result in an accident. Also, we rely on hearing precision while sleeping to alert us to any imminent danger that may be present.
Increased Risk for Other Health Conditions
Extensive research shows associated links between hearing loss and serious health problems like cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.
Hearing Loss Combined with Impaired Mobility
Similar to hearing loss, strength and mobility also tend to decline with age. For individuals suffering from both afflictions it can be difficult to get the necessary treatment and care due to the inability to travel to a hospital, healthcare facility, or clinic.
Mobile Hearing Aid & Hearing Clinic Services
For those living in the North Shore and Greater Vancouver area, a convenient and effective mobile service is available to handle all your auditory assessment, assistance, and treatment needs from the comfort of your own home.
Contact the mobile clinic today for more information or to book an appointment.