Elderly Hearing loss in the Memory Impaired is more common than suspected
Elderly Hearing loss is far more common than many suspect. Of the hard of hearing individuals the most prolific cause is age related hearing loss, a condition that can start in a person’s 40s but which is most apparent in the over 65s.
In fact, across most western countries, hearing loss is reported to affect 80% of the over 70s as noted in a 2005 study: “Action on hearing loss 2005 study UK / The MarkeTrak VIII survey USA.”
How We Hear?
Our hearing is based on an ability to capture waves of sound and to then translate those signals into meaningful information. Waves of sound pass through various parts of the ear and any interruption in their journey can lead to hearing impairment.
A critical part of this journey culminates in the inner ear where thousands of tiny ‘hair cells,’ fire signals via the hearing nerve fibers to the brain for interpretation. Deterioration of the ‘hair cells’ as a result of the natural aging process will reduce the signals that are sent to the brain.
Once these hair cells begin to whither they cannot regrow and as such age-related hearing loss is irreversible. It does not mean however that it cannot be managed using modern means and with the help of your health carrier.
Can I Just ‘Live With It’?
Mary Kaland & Kate Salvatore state in The Asha Leader, “There are well-documented psychological effects to hearing loss, including frustration, withdrawal from social events and depression; all of which can reduce confidence and lower quality of life. Managing age-related hearing loss and its impact requires a combination of methods rather than one approach.”
Problems often begin due to the difficulty in conducting conversation with others, essential to all social interaction. This may mean and include having to ask people to keep repeating their words, mis-hearing certain words and therefore answering questions incorrectly, having to concentrate during a conversation, having to make guesses as to what has been said.
All of which can lead to exhaustion after interaction with others and ultimately may make someone with a hearing impairment decide to avoid participating in the conversation all together. ‘It’s just easier this way.’
Then, Removing oneself from conversation can quickly lead to:
- Social exclusion and reduced interaction with others
- Feelings of anxiety and worry
- Depression and adjustment disorder
- Feelings of shame, humiliation and inadequacy
- Loss of confidence
- Reduced quality of life
In addition, recent studies highlight that untreated hearing loss is an important and incontrovertible factor in the acceleration of dementia. This is likely due do social isolation and lack of sensory stimulant. Studies by the Johns Hopkins University, have determined that socially isolated individuals are more likely to develop dementia.
Out of 639 participants, researchers found that those with hearing loss at the beginning of the study were significantly more likely to develop dementia by the end. In fact, the risk of developing dementia over time was believed to increase by as much as fivefold.
Hearing loss should not be left un-managed and there is no reason to just ‘live with it’.
How To Manage Hearing in Age Related Hearing Loss?
Age related hearing loss cannot be ‘cured’ but rather managed so its impact on your quality of life is minimized.
Management of the condition is achieved by using amplified aids that deliver sound in an amplified manner. The most common are digital hearing aids, a group of microcomputers that fit inside or outside the wearer’s ear and are tasked with amplifying external sound.
Another group comprise of daily devices that have been adopted for use by the hard of hearing. Examples include amplified phones as well as cell phones, amplified alarms and aids designed to amplify the sound of a TV unit. Relief often comes from using a number of aids as each is slightly better suited for a particular situation.
If you suspect that your hearing is impaired, talk to your doctor about getting your hearing checked and about your options for managing any hearing loss that you may have.