Seniors and caregivers often ask how common is hearing loss, when they discuss their health plans. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, approximately 1 out of every 3 seniors over the age of 65 have some degree of hearing loss. While hearing loss is associated with the aging process, there are things seniors can do to preserve their hearing.
Why Do We Lose Our Hearing?
There are many factors that affect a person's hearing. Exposure to loud noises and noises over a long period of time increase your risk of developing hearing issues later in life. Medical conditions that are common in older adults, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, also lead to hearing loss. Medications for these conditions play a factor in hearing loss as well.
Hearing Loss Facts
Here are some quick facts from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), the government agency that reports on this issue:
- Men are more likely than women to develop hearing loss.
- About 2% of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss
- The rate in the previous bullet increase 8.5% for adults aged 55 to 64
- 25% of adults ages 65 to 74 have disabling hearing loss
- 50% of those aged 75 and older have disabling hearing loss
- Fewer than 1 in 3 adults 70 or older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids have ever used them
How Can We Preserve Our Hearing?
Not all hearing loss is preventable, but there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk.
Wearing hearing protection when exposed to loud or ongoing noises and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle are very effective in preventing hearing loss. Keep the volume for radios and televisions at the lowest level that a senior can hear, and protect their ears with noise-canceling ear phones when you are in a noisy environment such as at a theater.
Eat a well-balanced diet to prevent medical conditions that lead to hearing loss and the need for medications associated with hearing loss.
Visit the doctor. You may have an issue that could be addressed. Ear wax build up causes temporary hearing loss that can lead to needless anxiety in a senior who may fear losing their hearing. Alternatively, a perforated eardrum from an untreated ear infection could cause hearing loss that is permanent.
How Can You Correct Hearing?
Devices that correct and enhance hearing boost confidence and improve quality of life. It is important to consult with a otolaryngologist, or ENT specialist, to rule out underlying causes. Audiologists and Hearing Aid Specialists can identify specific areas of hearing loss and fit a person for an appropriate device, if needed.
There are actually many benefits to having good hearing, including the following:
Psychological health. When we can easily hear what’s going on around us, we tend to be more a part of things. ‘Alone time’ is a good thing and no one should try to live without it. But when you just can’t hear what the other person said, or if your group of friends just sounds like a bunch of noise, it is hard to join in. And that can leave you feeling frustrated, irritated and lonely.
Social life. You know what it’s like to have to repeat yourself every time you ask someone a question? Maybe you are out for lunch and the restaurant is already a little noisy. It might seem necessary to repeat a question, or an answer to a question then. Good hearing can help you hear the things you want to hear in those situations. And that would make times with friends just a little sweeter. A similar benefit might be your being able to hear the television without annoying the rest of the household.
Physical health. Our hearing is something we use without even thinking about it. Our hearing gives us information we need to act on to keep us physically healthy. The tea kettle whistling on the hot stove, someone unexpectedly knocking on the door—things like these we need to hear. Hearing that a car is zooming down the street could save our life or the life of someone we love.
While avoiding loud noises and promoting ear health do help prevent hearing loss in seniors, it is also important to encourage seniors to have their hearing checked regularly. To learn more about how to keep a senior loved one in the best health possible, contact a Caring team near you today.