BENGALURU: Age is just a number – this is one of the most common phrases that we generally get to hear from the elderly population. However, with the single number that is added to our age, the risk of developing a health condition also increases, one of which is hearing.
Studies say that one in five people aged over 60 to 65 years are affected with hearing problem and it is expected to double over time. By 85 and above, it is expected to triple. Hearing loss reduces a person’s mode of communication, which can lead to social isolation and increases their dependency on other people.
What is Presbycusis?
Presbycusis is a kind of hearing loss caused by natural aging of the auditory system. It is a type of sensorineural hearing loss which occurs gradually, initially affecting the ability to hear high pitch sounds. It generally affects both ears to the same degree. Consequently, it can also hamper the speech intelligibility more than the capacity to hear sounds around, especially when the impaired hearing is subjected to an intensively noisy environment.
- Each individual experiences the symptoms differently.
- Conversations get difficult to understand, especially in the presence of background noise.
- Some of the high pitched sounds like “s” or “th” are hard to distinguish
- Some sounds can seem to be overly loud and irritating
- Speech of the others might sound muffled
- Tinnitus can occur in one or both ears.
Common among adults above the age of 65, presbycusis is a medical condition that can occur due to many reasons. It can also be considered as the cumulative result of the normal aging process on the ears. Patients suffering from presbycusis are typically the ones who have been exposed to blaring sounds throughout their lives. Other possible reasons could be the consumption of certain medications that can damage the ear in the long run.
Risk factors like smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus have a connection with presbycusis. Impairment of hair cells, continuous exposure to noise pollution and genetic predisposition are other contributing factors. It is important to consult an audiologist and get rehabilitated. Leaving it untreated makes way for other conditions like depression, anxiety and stress.
The audiologist will conduct certain tests and further share specifics about the hearing loss and which ear is the most affected. Based on this information, the right rehab plan can be planned. Hearing aids are the most recommended treatment for age- associated hearing loss. It can diminish symptoms and improve the quality of life.
The author is audiologist, CEO and founder, HearFon Hearing and Speech Clinic