It is natural for the elderly to lose their hearing. Hearing aids can be a useful tool to improve this situation.
Medical Advisor: Rodrigo Posada Trujllo.
Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist and Ear Surgeon, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare.
At age 35 or 40, people begin to lose an average of one decibel a year in their perception of sound and over time, older adults may even need hearing aids to improve their hearing. In fact, most people over age 60 suffer from conditions such as presbycusis (age-related hearing loss) or hyperacusis (the inability to tolerate certain sounds). Both of these conditions are caused either by the deterioration of the cochlea’s hair cells in the inner ear or by extreme sensibility to sound, which can damage one’s ability to hear.
This all depends, however, on the environment where each individual lives. For example, farmers or people that do not live in the city, are not exposed to much sound and can handle losing up to 40 decibels before using hearing aids. But, depending on the characteristics of their hearing loss, people that are constantly exposed to noise may need hearing aids after a 35-decibel loss.
As Dr. Rodrigo Posada Trujillo explains, otolaryngologist and President of the Colombian Division of the Fisch International Microsurgery Foundation, while age is a factor that makes this condition worse, the more noise there is in an environment, the greater the risk for hearing loss.
Functionality is key
While using hearing aids does improve the volume of sound perception, they are not normally used to cure the conditions that cause hearing loss. These aides allow patients to walk outside without having to fear not being able to hear a honking car, they help patients avoid making others uncomfortable when they listen to the television too loud or when they make them repeat or shout what they say to be understood, or they simply help patients participate in gatherings with family or friends without being isolated.
Many patients do not use them even when they have been prescribed because they think, “What will people think?” and they disregard the main reasons why using a hearing aid will allow their ear to function properly.
As Dr. Posada explains, these tools actually operate like glasses; they don’t work the same for everyone. Each type of hearing loss requires a specific recommendation, and while this article has focused on age, it is necessary to get a hearing test to determine the degree and cause of hearing loss.
Hearing aids not only have specific uses, they may also be chosen for their aesthetic appeal, which is why some people makes the error of buying “the prettiest one,” or the one that is least noticeable instead of choosing the most functional aid, and they end up not using them for many different reasons.
When hearing problems occur, especially in the elderly, it is essential to be seen by a responsible specialist that can determine the origin and degree of the condition and that can recommend surgical treatment, if necessary, as not all hearing loss can be treated with this device.
If the cause of hyperacusis (hearing loss) is chronic ear infections, genetic disorders, tumors or something else, the most appropriate alternative is to have an otolaryngologist or otologist perform surgery. If it is caused by genetic disorders such as a missing ear canal, osseointegrated implants (hearing devices inserted in the skull behind the ear) will be necessary.
Dr. Posada Trujillo clarifies that preventing hearing loss starts at a young age by avoiding being around high volumes in closed spaces and by wearing earplugs to events such as concerts. He also states that your ears will thank you if you keep the volume at a moderate level when listening to music with headphones and if you use mufflers on motorcycles •
Be aware of the warning signs
If you experience the following symptoms you should see an ear specialist:
- If you have received treatment with ototoxic drugs (antibiotics that affect the ear not immediately, but over time).
- If you have suffered from diseases such as rubella, syphilis, toxoplasmosis or herpes.
- If you have to turn the volume of your television up because you can’t hear well, but you don’t realize how loud it already is.
- If you do not understand what others say.
- If you need others to repeat themselves or speak loudly to you.
- If you do not hear the doorbell or phone ring.
- If you understand certain words as others that sound similar (for example, “fan” for “van”).
- If you are told that you are talking too loud.