Hearing Loss Defined
loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older
adults. Roughly one-third of Americans over 60 and 40 to 50
percent of those 75 and older have hearing loss.
with hearing loss find it difficult to talk with friends and
family. They may also have trouble understanding a doctor's
advice, responding to warnings, and hearing doorbells and
loss comes in many forms. It can range from a mild loss in
which a person misses certain high-pitched sounds, such as the
voices of women and children, to a total loss of hearing. It
can be hereditary or it can result from disease, trauma,
certain medications, or long-term exposure to loud noise.
two general categories of hearing loss. Sensor neural hearing
loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear or the
auditory nerve. This type of hearing loss is permanent.
hearing loss occurs when sound waves cannot reach the cochlea.
The cause may be earwax build-up, fluid, or a punctured
eardrum. Medical or surgical treatment can usually restore
conductive hearing loss.
of hearing loss, presbycusis, comes on gradually as a person
ages. Presbycusis can occur because of changes in the inner
ear, auditory nerve, middle ear, or outer ear. Some of its
causes are aging, loud noise, heredity, head injury,
infection, illness, certain prescription drugs, and
circulation problems such as high blood pressure.
Presbycusis commonly affects people over 50, many of whom are
likely to lose some hearing each year. Having presbycusis may
make it hard for a person to tolerate loud sounds or to hear
what others are saying.
also common in older people, is the ringing, hissing, or
roaring sound in the ears frequently caused by exposure to
loud noise or certain medicines. Tinnitus is a symptom, not a
disease, so it can accompany any type of hearing loss.
can also be a sign of other important health problems, such as
allergies and problems in the heart and blood vessels.
Tinnitus can come and go, or it can persist or stop
people may not want to admit they have trouble hearing. Older
people who can't hear well may become depressed or withdraw
from others to avoid feeling frustrated or embarrassed about
not understanding what is being said. It is easy to mistakenly
call older people confused, unresponsive, or uncooperative
just because they don't hear well.
problems that are ignored or untreated can get worse. If you
have a hearing problem, you can get help. See your doctor.
Hearing aids, special training, certain medicines, and surgery
are some of the choices that can help people with hearing