Getting older may make you wiser, but the odds are it won’t have the same strengthening effect on your hearing. As we age, most people become susceptible to age-related hearing loss, which develops gradually throughout our lifetime. Age related hearing loss has a negative impact on a person’s quality of life – it becomes harder to understand speech and feel understood by others, and it can play a role in social isolation. Hearing loss even affects our balance and coordination and increases the chance of developing dementia.
Despite these factors, age-related hearing loss is often left untreated, a double surprise since age-related hearing loss is treatable with hearing aids and assistive devices. Often it is accepted that age-related hearing loss is a “burden to bear” with aging, merely because it is prevalent. However, with the treatability of the condition, no one should consider untreated hearing loss something they must endure.
Our Hearing As It Ages
Our hearing is dependent on small fragile hair cells within the inner ear that act as sensors for sound waves. We are born with a finite amount of hair cells as they are unable to repair themselves if they are damaged. Injury to our hair cells can occur from exposure to loud noise, infection, even some types of medication can damage hearing. Throughout our lives we lose hair cells that never replace themselves, creating slowly widening gaps in our hearing. Over the course of our lifetime, cumulative damage to our auditory system results in significant hearing loss.
Another factor in age-related hearing loss is that the hair cells of the inner ear become less supple and more delicate with age. Older hair cells are more likely to sustain damage. The increasing vulnerability of our hearing as we age leads to some significant jumps in the rate of hearing loss.
In the general population about 20% of people are affected by significant hearing loss. When you select solely the population over the age of 65, that percentage jumps to around 33%. From there, the likelihood of significant hearing loss increases exponentially. Surveying people who are age 90 and above, over 90% live with hearing loss.
This is why hearing experts recommend making a habit of annual hearing exams as we get older. An annual hearing test monitors hearing levels and can detect hearing loss and other problems early, making them easier to treat.
Treating Hearing Loss
In the past several decades, treatment for age-related hearing loss has advanced in leaps and bounds with new adaptable technology and smaller more discreet designs leading the way. Yet only around 20% or one out of every five people with hearing loss seeks treatment for the condition.
There are several misperceptions that can keep people from seeking help for their hearing loss. Many people put off having their hearing checked when they first notice a hearing issue. On average, there are seven years between when a person first perceives a hearing issue and when they seek treatment.
This long procrastination is detrimental to a person’s quality of life and total health. Most hearing loss happens gradually, so when we first notice an issue we also may find think that we can easily adapt to it. In truth, letting gradual hearing loss progress without treatment can greatly worsen your hearing.
Sooner Is Better
Another very common misconception is that treating hearing loss is only for severe or profound hearing issues. In reality, the sooner hearing loss is treated, the less impact it has on how we naturally hear.
When left untreated, hearing loss gets progressively worse. Not only do we lose more hair cells making sound perception harder, our brain re-writes the way we interpret sound. As our hearing worsens, the auditory cortex reorganizes how it comprehends sounds and pulls in extra cognitive resources to help. This can make hearing physically exhausting, mentally frustrating and can contribute to cognitive and balance problems.
The earlier hearing loss is treated, the less brain performance is adjusted, and the easier it is to maintain our hearing’s functions. Think of an annual hearing test as preventative care, and deal with hearing loss when it is detected.
Atlanta Hearing Doctor
Don’t let age-related hearing loss cramp your style, schedule an appointment with Atlanta Hearing Doctor and keep your hearing wellness right on track. From comprehensive audiological testing to our friendly and knowledgeable staff, we’re the best place to treat age-related hearing loss, hands down.