Hearing loss is a common issue related to aging, but intervention and treatment can reduce the effects that it has on your life.
Our bodies undergo many changes as we age, including variations in our hearing. One form of hearing loss associated with the aging process is presbycusis, a condition that typically affects the inner ear, causing a progressive hearing loss most frequently in high-pitched sounds.
The National Institute of Health reports a strong correlation between age and hearing loss. Americans reporting a loss of hearing:
18 percent of adults 45-64 years old
30 percent of adults 65-74 years old
47 percent of adults 75 years or older
Those experiencing presbycusis often report that everyone mumbles. Generally, they have a more difficult time comprehending speech, especially in noisy environments. Communication at restaurants, movies, parties, religious services and other crowded areas can become a major struggle; job performance can also be affected, leading to potential loss of wages. Related health issues that have been reported through a study from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine range from depression to a higher incidence of chronic illness and dementia. Delaying treatment can also be detrimental. Use it or lose it is very applicable to hearing, and studies have shown that the longer treatment is prolonged, the less able the brain is to benefit from amplification.
While there is no cure, the good news is that advances have been made in digital hearing aid technology in the last several years that make treating presbycusis possible in the majority of people. Adaptive Dynamic Range Optimization (ADRO) 64 channel digital hearing aid technology effectively addresses the overall symptoms of presbycusis. Advanced features of ADRO, like Environmental Noise Reduction, Impulse Noise Suppression and the Adaptive Dynamic Directional Microphone System, specifically address the most common problems of hearing and communicating in environments with background noise. Todays hearing aids also come in a more cosmetically appealing package than those of the past. Openfit, speaker-in-the-ear hearing aid designs offer a discreet way to treat high frequency hearing loss.
The first step is a comprehensive hearing test that will determine the presence of hearing loss and will indicate if hearing aids are a viable treatment option for you. Testing should include air and bone conduction tests as well as speech components like word recognition, speech reception thresholds and discrimination scores. It’s also important that part of the test is conducted through the hearing aids themselves, to assure they are appropriate for your loss and programmed to your unique hearing needs.
How much improvement can you expect? Results vary, of course, but the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) reports that 3 in 4 hearing aid users report bettering their quality of life due to wearing hearing aids. BHI also says that people who address hearing loss often improve job performance, boost communication skills, increase income potential, and improve both professional and interpersonal relationships.
We can’t stop the aging process and presbycusis, but with early intervention and treatment of hearing loss, we can certainly improve the outcome.
Heidi Sharpe, BSN, is a Licensed Hearing Instrument Specialist and serves as the Director of Training and Specialist Technical Support for Hearing Lab Technology, a company that provides patented digital sound processing technology and other hearing aid products.