In this, the first of hearing loss related articles, we aim to look at a topic that affects the lives of many individuals but gets very little publicity. Figures released by the national MarkeTrak VIII survey estimate the number of hard of hearing individuals in the US at 35 million and further projected that the number would grow to 53 million by the year 2053.
So what causes hearing loss and can you delay its impact on your health?
Several types of hearing loss affect our modern lives, with age related and noise induced the most common. Age related hearing loss is a natural diminished hearing ability due to changes that the body goes through from the age of 40 years old, but more widely seen in the over 65s. Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is completely artificial and caused by exposure to harmful sounds and lifestyle choices. Therefore means to reduce NIHS focus on avoiding the source of the noise often in conjunction with wearing hearing protection. When age related hearing loss is concerned, there are no means to delay its impact but plenty of means to manage the condition.
Age related hearing loss simplified
Our hearing ability is aided by tiny hair like cells within the inner ear. These hair cells capture sound in different frequencies (vibration and air waves) that are then sent to the brain by means of the hearing nerve. When sound reaches the brain, it is made into tangible information for us interpret. As the body matures from as early as a person’s 40s, the number of hair cells as well as their quality gradually deteriorates. Therefore slowly but ultimately hearing certain frequencies gets more and more difficult until it becomes a real burden often impacting quality of life. Certain people will seeks means to manage the condition, others will accept it as a given reality, perhaps as they are embarrassed to admit their hearing impairment or perhaps because of a lack of information.
Symptoms Of Age-Related Hearing Loss
The level of hearing loss may vary from one individual to the next based on medical history, exposure to loud noise over the years, family history and the amount and severity of degrading hair cells within the inner ear. Symptoms can include difficulty in hearing people around you within noisy environments. Background noise may seem far too loud compared to speech.
You may also notice:
● Sounds seem less clear
● Not being able to hear the telephone of door bell ring when others can
● Other people may sound mumbled or slurred
● Inability to hear high-pitched sounds such as “s” and “th”
● Often having to ask people to repeat themselves
● Having the television or radio turned up much higher than other family members
● Feeling tired after participating in a conversation held within background noise
Next time we will look at means to manage hearing loss. For now, should you have any concern about your hearing or the hearing of someone you know, your family doctor should be your first point of call.
Bio: Article by Joan McKechnie, BSc Hons Audiology & Speech Pathology. Joan works for hearing company Hearing Direct. For more information, read her guide to hearing loss.