As you get older, there is some change in your body function that hearing loss is one of them. Age-related hearing loss is a common condition in many elderly age people. Among two people over the age of 65, one of them experiences some degree of the hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss also called presbycusis. Although it is not a threat for your life but if does not treat, it will effect on your life quality.
How do we hear?
Hearing depends on a series of events that convert sound waves in the air into electrical signal. Then the auditory nerve will be sent to the brain by an intricate series of steps. These steps are as bellow:
- Sound waves enter the outer ear and move via a narrow pathway called the ear canal, which direct to the eardrum.
- The eardrum will be vibrating by incoming sound, then eardrum will send the vibrations to three small bone as called malleus, incus and stapes.
- The middle ear’s bones connect the sound vibration from the air to the fluid vibrations in the cochlea of the inner ear which is shaped like a snail and filled with fluid. An elastic partition moves from the beginning to the end of the cochlea and divide it into an upper and lower part. This partition is called the basilar membrane because it acts as the base or as the ground floor of the hearing system original sit.
- The vibration which is cause to crisp the fluid inside the cochlea, leads to a wave along the basilar membrane. Hair cells-sensory cells placing on top of the basilar membrane and activate the wave.
- Moving the hair cells to up and down, microscopic hair-like projections (called as stereocilia) that stand on top of the hair cells, strike the upper structure and bend. Bending causes to open pore-like channels. These pores placed at top of the stereocilia. Then chemical steepen to the cells and make an electrical signal.
- The auditory nerve takes the electrical signal to the brain and convert it into a sound that is distinguishable and understandable.
Why do we lose our hearing as we get older?
Many factors are causes hearing lose as you get older. It is difficult to distinguish the age-related hearing loss from loss hearing due to the other reasons such as exposing loud noise for a long time. It can cause hearing loss. It leads to damage to the hair cells-sensory in ear. Once these cells are damaged, they can’t grow up and consequently hearing ability will be reduced.
Some common conditions in the old ages like high blood pressure or diabetes also can leads to hearing loos. Some medicines that are harmful for ear’s inner sensory cells (such as chemotherapy drugs) may even cause hearing loos.
Rarely, age-related hearing loss is causes by any problem of outer or middle ear such as reduce function of the tympanic membrane (the eardrum) or three small bones in the middle ear that take sound waves from the tympanic membrane to the inner ear.
In most of the elder people, both age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss interfere in hearing loss.
Causes of age-related hearing loss (or presbycusis)
Presbycusis is a gradually process. Different changes in the inner ear can cause to age-related hearing loss as bellow:
- Changes in the inner ear’s structure
- Changes in blood flow to the ear
- Defectiveness in the hearing nerves
- Change in the sound and speech process by brain
- Damage to the small hairs that are responsible for transferring sound from ear to the brain
Age-related hearing loss may occur due to the other issues such as:
- Poor circulation
- Exposure to loud noises
- Use of specific medicines
- Family history of hearing loss
Symptoms of age-related hearing loss
Signs of age-related hearing loss mostly begin with inability to hear high sounds. The person will find it’s difficult to hear the child and female’s voices as well as difficulty to hear the background noise or the other person voice clearly.
The other symptoms are as follow:
- Speak loudly
- Difficulty to hear in noisy places
- Difficulty to hear the differences between “S” and “th” sounds.
- Ringing in the ears
- Turning up the volume higher than normal on radio and television
- Requesting people to repeat their words
- Difficulty to hear conversation over the phone
If you have any of above symptoms you need to consult with your doctor because these symptoms could be signs of the other disorders, so should be checked out by a doctor.
How it’s diagnosed
If you have any symptom of age-related hearing loss, you should see your doctor and he will do some general test to find the reason of your condition. More addition, he will check inside your ears by an otoscope.
If your doctor can’t find any other reason for this issue, so it is age-related hearing loss. You will be referred to a specialist called an audiologist to distinguish your hearing loss level by hearing test.
Still there is no treatment for age-related hearing loss. If you are diagnosed with this status, your doctor will help you to improve your hearing and quality of life. He maybe recommends you the following items:
- Using of hearing aids to help for better hearing
- Using of booster devices such as phone amplifiers
- Learning sign language or lip reading (for sever hearing loss)
In some cases, your doctor may suggest you a cochlear implant. It is a small electronic device that is placed into the ear via surgery. Although cochlear implants make sounds louder but it cannot restore normal hearing. This option is only usable for those who suffer of sever hearing loss.
Is it possible to prevent of age-related hearing loss?
Although there is no finding for prevention of presbycusis, but you can protect your hearing from noise-induced hearing loss. You should avoid repeated high sounds as well as decreasing times that you are exposure by these loud sound and also caring of ears by ear protections. These are the simple ways that you can protect of your hearing and decrease the level of age-related hearing loss.
Can my friends and family help me?
You and your family can cooperate together to make living easier by hearing loss. You can do the following items:
- Speak with your friends and family about your hearing loss. The more numbers who are informed about your problem, the more people will be there to help you manage this issue.
- Ask them to face you when they are talking because you can see their faces and will be able to lip reading and understanding their words.
- Ask them to speak louder but not shout. There is no need to speak words by word and slowly, just to speak clearly.
- Turn off the TV when nobody watches it.
- Be aware of noise around you. For example, when you go to a restaurant, don’t sit near the kitchen or music band. The background sounds make the hearing difficult for you.
May cooperation with others in order to better hearing be difficult for you. For instance, facing with other when they are talking to you or speaking loudly and clearly with you is time consuming and needs more energy for others, but be patient and ask help from others. Better hearing is worth it.
Mostly age related hearing loss is a progressive condition, it is not reversible and may lead to loss hearing. This condition may force you to stay at home, but you should avoid of isolation by your family and friend’s cooperation. You can manage this condition and have a relax and joyful life.
Loss hearing can cause both physical (such as not hear the alarm) and emotional (like social isolation) problems.
When we should refer to specialist?
If you have any problem for hearing you should quickly consider it because if it is caused because of more hair in your ear or a drug side effect, it can be treat more sooner. you should do a hearing test. If you find any change in your hearing or any other sign such as headache, visual change or dizziness, you need to see your doctor quickly.