Age-Related Hearing Loss
One in three people older than age 60 have hearing loss, and one in two people older than age 85 have hearing loss.1
Hearing loss related to the aging process is called presbycusis and it is a combination of changes to
- Blood flow and the structures of the inner ear
- Changes to the nerve of hearing
- How the brain processes speech and sounds
Presbycusis typically is a gradual hearing loss that first affects the high-pitched sounds and it is noticed by the subtle changes in hearing over time. Common symptoms of presbycusis include having difficulty hearing softer voices, children’s voices, and speech in the presence of background noises, as well as the loss of speech clarity.
Hearing loss due to aging can be increased by other factors such as diabetes, poor circulation, noise exposure, and certain medications.
Some additional facts concerning hearing loss and aging include:
- 30–35 percent of adults between the ages of 65 and 75 years suffer from hearing loss.
- 40–50 percent of adults 75 and older suffer from hearing loss.2
People with untreated hearing loss (those with hearing loss who do not wear hearing aids) experience a decreased quality of life. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to issues such as sadness, depression, anxiety, paranoia, cognitive decline, and poor social relationships.
One way of treating age-related hearing loss is with hearing aids. Today’s hearing aids are digital microcomputers that can automatically adjust to sound thousands of times per second, making speech comfortable and natural sounding.
Hearing Aid Facts
- Hearing aids can improve communication with family, friends, and co-workers, which can help maintain a high quality of life.
- Hearing aid technology is constantly evolving, and improvements such as the use of directional microphones have increased individuals’ ability to understand speech in noisy environments.
- Wearing hearing aids can improve your overall hearing; however, hearing aids cannot restore normal hearing, and one must remember that hearing loss in most situations is irreversible.
- Hearing aids come in a variety of options at different price points, the cost of a hearing aid depends on your lifestyle and the technology required.
- Medicare covers hearing testing with a physician’s referral, but Medicare does not cover the cost of hearing aids.
- Medicaid, some Medicare Advantage policies, private insurance carriers, and some charitable organizations may help cover the cost of hearing aids.
- Most audiologists have financing or payment plans available to help with the costs of hearing aids.
- Hearing aids come in several styles that include completely in-the-canal, in-the-canal, in-the-ear, and behind-the-ear. Today behind-the-ear is the most common type of hearing aid used. These devices are much smaller than those that were available in past years and they come in a variety of styles, colors, and shapes. Hearing aids that have the unit behind the ear comes in two types of technology, RIC (receiver in the ear), which delivers the sound via wire to a dome or earmold in the canal and BTE (behind the ear), which has a custom earmold that delivers the sound with a tube.
Common Signs of Hearing Loss
- Asking people to repeat what they say.
- Feeling like others are always mumbling or not speaking clearly.
- Difficulty hearing and understanding speech in noisy environments.
- Missing words or phrases on the telephone.
- Turning the volume up on the television or radio louder than normal.
Although hearing loss with age is inevitable, there are some steps you can take to prevent your hearing loss from getting worse. Day-to-day, you should consider avoiding loud sounds, using ear protection when around loud sounds, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Research has shown that the “use it or lose it” principle applies to our ears. Untreated hearing loss can lead to a deteriorated understanding of speech over time. Treating hearing loss early is highly recommended.
If you think you or a loved one has a hearing loss, visit “Find an Audiologist” in your area and schedule a hearing screening today!
1NIH Pub. No. 97-4235, March 2016.
2NIH Hearing Loss: A Common Problem for Older Adults