With Mother’s Day just a few days behind us, it is important to remember that hearing loss is one of the most common chronic conditions affecting older adults. Communication can be seriously impaired in individuals with hearing loss, which could lead to a perceived reduction in quality of life.
Hearing loss impacts communication negatively and is strongly associated with decreased quality of life, cognitive decline, and depression. Because it is a slowly developing problem and people see hearing loss as a normal part of aging, it is sometimes underrecognized. Between the ages of 65 and 74 approximately one in three people has difficulty hearing, and half of those older than 75 have a hearing loss.
Having trouble hearing can make everyday actions difficult or even impossible. It can make it hard to understand and follow a doctor’s advice, or to hear doorbells and alarms to respond to warnings. It can even take away the joy of talking with friends and family. To the person experiencing hearing difficulty this can be a frustrating, embarrassing, and even dangerous time in their lives.
Symptoms of age-related hearing loss
Most people with age-related hearing loss first experience a decline in their ability to hear high frequency sounds.
Speech contains high frequency sounds, and the speech sounds with the highest frequencies are the consonants, such as, s, t, k, p and f. The result of not hearing these high frequency sounds is difficulty hearing what people say to you, especially in the presence of background noise. Another indicator is that men’s voices sound clearer than women’s voices. Other people’s speech sound mumbled and slurred and sometimes you can experience a ringing in your ears. You may have even lost the experience of common daily sounds. When did you last hear the birds singing or even the sound of running water? Maybe the humming of the refrigerator or the beep from the microwave oven are long forgotten sounds.
But now the question: do I have a hearing problem? Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer “yes” to three or more of these questions, you could have a hearing problem and should have your hearing checked by an audiologist.
- Do you sometimes feel embarrassed when meeting new people because you struggle to hear?
- Do you feel frustrated when talking to family members because you have difficulty hearing them?
- Do you have difficulty hearing when someone whispers?
- Do you feel restricted or limited by not hearing?
- Do you struggle to hear when visiting friends, relatives, or neighbors?
- Do you attend religious services less often than you would like because of your hearing difficulties?
- Do you argue more with family members because of your hearing difficulties?
- Do others complain that you listen to the TV or radio at levels that are too loud for others?
- Do your hearing difficulties limit your personal or social life?
- Do you have trouble following conversations with family or friends when you are together in a restaurant?
Hearing problems can be serious. The most important thing you can do if you think you have a hearing problem is to seek professional advice by visiting an audiologist. An audiologist has specialized training in identifying and measuring the type and degree of hearing loss and recommending treatment options.
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