Will my hearing get worse?
This is the question we in Galway Hearing Care get asked most often. The short answer is, ‘yes, but gradually over time’. The long answer, and without being able to tell the future, is more complex. As a result, knowing a little more about hearing loss may go part of the way in understanding presbyacusis (age related hearing loss) and genetic and lifestyle factors contributing to hearing loss.
Hearing loss is one of the most prevalent conditions which affects 1 in 6 Irish adults. In effect, if you are the family members who complains about the TV being too loud, then you are not alone! Increased volume on the TV and radio is one of the more obvious signs, but there are others which can help identify if your loved one has difficulty hearing. These can range from asking others to repeat themselves, struggling to hear in background noise, or difficulty hearing in a social setting. On the other hand, the hidden signs of hearing loss can range from being stressed or feeling tired when watching a movie or listening for extended periods to no longer socialising. Whilst, these can appear obvious to the onlooker, they can often go noticed to the hard of hearing person. More importantly, it is necessary if you suspect a loved one is struggling to hear to broach the subject in a sensitive manner and not out of the understandable frustration being experienced.
What causes hearing loss in older adults?
Age-related hearing loss is known as presbyacusis and is typically sensorineural and more often than not a permanent hearing loss. To begin with, let’s look at how we hear, when sound enters the ear canal the sound waves travel through the outer ear where they meet the ear drum (tympanic membrane), from here the movement of the eardrum magnifies the sound through the movement of the 3 tiny bones (ossicles) in the middle ear. From here the sound travels through to the inner ear and to the cochlea, the snail like structure the size of a shrivelled pea. The cochlea is filled with tiny hair cells. It is when hair cells become damaged they cannot transmit sound properly and we have what is known as a permanent ‘sensorineural’ or SNHL hearing loss. This damage is caused as a result of the aging process or as a result of exposure to excessive noise. It is not possible to prevent presbycusis, however, a healthy lifestyle can reduce its effects. Of all the hearing losses, noise induced hearing loss is 100% preventable by simply wearing adequate hearing protection . In a nutshell, once damage is done as a result of noise exposure it is done and cannot be undone! Therefore, assistive listening devices, such as hearing aids, are the only treatment options available.
Is hearing loss certain?
Although it appears inevitable, growing older may not necessarily mean that you will have a hearing loss. The main contributing factors to hearing loss are genetics and environmental factors such as noise pollution or exposure to certain medications e.g. cisplatin. In effect, when looking for the answer to the age-old question, “Will my hearing get worse?” it is important to take in to consideration familial history and environmental factors across a lifetime. If you would like to discuss any of your concerns relating to hearing loss then call us on 091 567888 or contact us via our online form with any concerns you have for you or your loved ones.