Age is the biggest single cause of hearing loss. As most of us grow older, the daily wear and tear on our hearing systems gradually reduces their effectiveness. When your hearing starts to weaken, it becomes more difficult to hear soft voices and high-frequency sounds, such as the voices of children and women. Sufferers of age-related hearing loss can also find it very hard to follow conversations in the presence of background noise.
The person with a hearing problem is often the last to notice it, because hearing loss tends to come on gradually and subtly. So it is not only denial but an unawareness of how much they are missing, and of the fact that untreated hearing loss can be harmful to health. There usually isn't a sudden shift from being able to hear to not being able to hear, and since the process is gradual it can be more difficult to identify when it is happening.
Because the loss is gradual, you may not realise that you've lost some of your ability to hear. It is one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults. Often, family members notice age-related hearing loss before the sufferer becomes aware of it. Though different people might have different causes for their age-related hearing loss, hearing loss affects most people in the same ways. People typically experience similar challenges with communication when they have hearing loss, and there are many ways to cope with the challenges that arise.
Age-related hearing loss typically occurs in both ears simultaneously, so you won't notice that you're having trouble hearing in just one ear. With age-related hearing loss, you might notice that you are having a more difficult time speaking on the phone, hearing doorbells, or following conversations. The people around you might help you identify your hearing loss if they notice that you're asking "can you repeat that?" more often than usual.
Having trouble hearing can make it hard to understand and follow a doctor's advice, respond to warnings, and hear phones, doorbells, and smoke alarms. Hearing loss can also make it hard to enjoy talking with family and friends, leading to feelings of isolation.
Age-related hearing loss most often occurs in both ears, affecting them equally. Because the loss is gradual, if you have age-related hearing loss you may not realise that you've lost some of your ability to hear.
There are many causes of age-related hearing loss. Most commonly, it arises from changes in the inner ear as we age, but it can also result from changes in the middle ear, or from complex changes along the nerve pathways from the ear to the brain. Certain medical conditions and medications may also play a role. Conditions that are more common in older people, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, can contribute to hearing loss.
Other symptoms that may occur include:
● certain sounds seeming overly loud
● difficulty hearing in areas that are noisy
● difficulty hearing the difference between 's' and 'th' sounds
ringing in the ears
● turning up the volume on the television or radio louder than normal
● asking people to repeat themselves
● being unable to understand conversations over the telephone.
Most older people who experience hearing loss have a combination of both age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss. But it is the social isolation which is the most distressing factor – at any age. Getting a hearing device can help to combat that isolation, and get you back into the social swing of things.