According to the National Institutes of Health, 35 million people, or 18 percent of people in the U.S. between the ages of 20-69 have some hearing loss in both ears. 50% of those over the age of 75 in the U.S. have some level of hearing loss. So, is hearing loss an age-related condition? Maybe or maybe not.
Age-related hearing loss is a common progressive condition pronounced “prez-bi-kyuses”, defined as “a lessening of hearing acuteness resulting from degenerative changes in the ear that occur especially in old age.” Presbycusis develops gradually over time and can occur for several reasons.
The most common are changes that take place in the inner ear organ called the cochlea. These changes are often hereditary, or noise induced; however, they can also result from
other underlying conditions such as diabetes, ototoxic medications, or complex changes that occur along the nerve pathways from the ear to the brain. These changes typically have a gradual onset, and we don’t realize it’s happening. You might begin to miss soft sounds and people around you start to sound like they are mumbling. This leads to miscommunication, frustration, embarrassment, and eventually isolation.
Many university healthcare centers are researching hair cell regeneration in the inner ear to reverse sensorineural hearing loss. However, until the next scientific breakthrough happens, the most comprehensive treatment for hearing loss remains amplification, or hearing aids. The health implications of hearing loss as we age should not be taken lightly. Studies being done at John Hopkins University have demonstrated that hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain, social isolation, dementia, and balance disorders.
Today is the day to start your path to healthy aging and hearing, regardless of how old you are. Discover all the wonderful tools you have at your disposal to improve your quality of life. Protect your hearing with properly fitting hearing protection, stay physically and socially active, eat foods rich in antioxidants, and talk to your Audiologist about options for identifying and treating hearing loss.