Detecting Hearing Loss as You Age

Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions that older adults face. Research shows that approximately one out of three seniors ages 65 to 74 experiences hearing loss, and nearly half of those over 75 have some degree of difficulty hearing. Many seniors don’t want to admit to their hearing challenges due to embarrassment or fear, but staying silent on this issue keeps them from receiving the treatment they need to live a happier life.

These concerns are understandable, according to Diane Reier, Lifestyle Specialist at Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights, a senior living community in Prospect Heights, IL. “Many seniors will neglect their need for a hearing aid, either due to denial, embarrassment, convenience or cost. Too many older adults go without the proper treatment for their hearing impairments. Sadly, refusing to get treated means they are ultimately cutting themselves off from enjoying the quality of life that comes from daily communication, entertainment and socialization.”

How Do I Know It’s Time for Treatment?

Hearing loss in seniors can have many causes: head injuries, prolonged exposure to loud noises, medications, genetics, infections and age, just to name a few. Even though gradual loss of hearing is common among seniors, age-related hearing loss is still a medical condition called presbycusis (pronounced prez-bee-KYOO-sis) and can be treated if you seek professional help. You should see a doctor if you answer yes to these questions:

  • Do you have trouble hearing over the telephone?
  • Do you have trouble hearing when there’s noise in the background?
  • Do people seem to mumble when they speak to you?
  • Do you misunderstand what others are saying and ask them to repeat themselves?
  • Do people complain that you turn the TV volume up too high?
  • Do you feel that your hearing problems are limiting your activities or social life?
  • Do you ever hear a ringing, buzzing or hissing sound? (This condition, known as tinnitus, is a common symptom of many types of hearing impairments)

If these problems occur on a daily basis, you should tell your doctor of your symptoms and ask if any of your medications are ototoxic, or harmful to the inner ear. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist in senior hearing, such as:

  • An otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) will try to find out the cause of your hearing loss by performing a thorough exam and offer treatment options including surgery, hearing aids, medications or continued testing.
  • An audiologist identifies and measures hearing loss through painless tests, but cannot prescribe medications or perform surgery.
  • A hearing aid specialist is a licensed professional who can check your hearing and assist in fitting a hearing aid and other hearing devices.

What Should I Know About Hearing Aids?

Depending on the degree of your hearing loss, your doctor may suggest one or more treatment options to increase your abilities and functioning. The most common form of treatment for hearing loss is a hearing aid. This device sits in or behind your ear and amplifies sound. There are several different types of hearing aids, each designed for different needs or preferences.

Hearing aids utilize one of two technologies: analog or digital. Analog aids usually cost less and are programmable to the wearer. Analog hearing aids have more than one setting, each programmed for different environments based on your audiologist’s recommendations. For example, you may have one setting for quiet spaces and another for crowded areas. Digital hearing aids give audiologists more flexibility in adjusting settings to different environments and can be programmed to amplify some sounds more than others.

It may take some trial-and-error to find the type of hearing aid that’s best for your specific needs and preferences. As you and your doctor work to find the right aid, keep some of these tips in mind:

  • Have your doctor help you decide what features and styles will best suit your hearing needs and lifestyle.
  • There are five common styles of hearing aids: Behind-The-Ear (BTE), Mini BTE, In-The-Ear (ITE), In-The-Canal (INC) and Completely-In-Canal (CIC). Have your doctor explain each one.
  • While more advanced technologies come at a higher cost, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will serve you better than a less expensive device. Your needs may be met with a simpler aid.
  • Ask about a trial period for your new hearing aid. Use the trial period to decide if this device will work for you and sort out any problems or discomforts you have before committing to it.
  • Ask whether there is a warranty for your device. Know how to get your hearing aid repaired, if needed, and how to handle regular maintenance.

Listen to the Warning Signals

If you suspect you or a loved one are beginning to suffer from hearing loss, there are several reliable online resources that can offer guidance. The National Institutes of Health, specifically NIH Senior Health and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), provide seniors information on identifying and treating age-related hearing loss.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

“Our hearing has a direct impact on our quality of life,” says Reier, “and no one should have to suffer from hearing loss when treatment is available. If you or a loved one need assistance in learning about their hearing impairments or finding the best treatment options, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Talk to your primary care physician or a local senior living community for recommendations.

“At Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights, we’re committed to making sure seniors experience the best days possible. We’re devoted to helping our residents and members of the Prospect Heights community enjoy the quality health and lifestyle they deserve. Learn more about Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights today to see how we can help you!”

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also welcome you to share any caregiving insights or experiences in our comments section.

Live Well. Age Well. Be Well.

Offering Independent, Assisted Living and A Knew Day Memory Support, Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights is a distinctive senior living community designed to offer seniors residing in the Chicago Northwest Suburbs area a fresh alternative to “typical” senior living communities.

Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights provides residents with the ideal balance of personalized support, dignified privacy and enhanced independence complemented by luxurious amenities and our life-enriching, award-winning VIVA!SM programming by Pathway to Living®.

Managed by Pathway to Living®, an innovator in senior living, Aspired Living® offers the choice of a private studio or a one- or two-bedroom apartment and the beauty of a brand new community, stunningly appointed and decorated for unsurpassed comfort and style by the award-winning senior living design firm, Thoma-Holec Design, Inc.

For more information, please call Diane at 847-243-6920.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.