Hearing, like the rest of the body, undergoes a transformation as people age and after the age of 60, many adults experience age-related hearing loss where as per World Health Organization estimates, in India, there are nearly 63 million people who suffer from Significant Auditory Impairment. Hearing loss can severely affect the quality of life of a person making it hard to understand what the other person is saying, hear phones, doorbells, smoke alarms and respond to warnings.
With growing age, people tend to experience different changes in their mental, physical and social health. Common among the physical changes are ear diseases that usually result in hearing loss but apart from age – genetic factors, environmental factors and wear and tear also play an important role in changes to the ears.
Causes of age-Related Hearing Loss or Presbycusis
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Anuradha R Belnekar of Astha Eye and ENT Centrew in Mumbai, explained, “Age-related hearing, also known as Presbycusis, affects people gradually as they age. As one gets older, the degeneration can occur inside the inner ear as well along the nerve pathways that lead to the brain and impact hearing. The majority of the time, such changes can be linked to the health of minute hair cells inside the inner ear that helps a person hear. These tiny hair cells translate the sound waves into electrical signals which can be interpreted as a recognizable sound by the brain. As hair cells do not regrow or regenerate, any sort of hearing loss experienced by a person due to the damage is permanent.”
She added that age-related hearing loss may also happen due to:
· poor circulation
· use of specific medications
· exposure to loud noises
· family history
Hearing issues include trouble with recognising and discriminating sounds (including speech), processing auditory information and understanding speech. According to Dr Anuradha R Belnekar, other symptoms include:
· Ringing in the ears
· Asking people to repeat what they said
· Turning up the radio or TV volume louder than normal
Tips to prevent age-related hearing loss:
Dr Anuradha R Belnekar suggested, “Aged people can protect themselves from noise-induced hearing loss by safeguarding the ears from sounds that are extremely loud and last too long. It’s vital to be aware of the sources of damaging noises, like loud music, snowmobiles, lawn mowers, firearms and leaf blowers. Reducing the exposure to loud noises and protecting the ears with ear muffs or ear plugs can go a long way in protecting the hearing of a person.”
In case of any hearing issues, a person must visit an ENT specialist to find out the cause of the trouble and receive adequate treatment. Dr Anuradha R Belnekar highlighted that the most common forms of treatment available are:
1. Hearing aids – These are electronic instruments one wears as they make sounds louder.
2. Cochlear implants – Cochlear implants happen to be small electronic devices that are surgically implanted inside the ear to help provide a sense of sound to people who are hard-of-hearing or profoundly deaf.
3. Bone anchored hearing systems are designed to use the natural ability of the body to transfer sound through bone conduction. The processor picks up sounds, converts the sounds into vibrations, and then relays it through the skull bone to the inner ear.
To get the right treatment at the right time, it is always recommended to seek professional advice from an ENT specialist. In many cases, hearing issues are treatable thus, one must take the time to get the answers and the necessary treatment.