Enjoy life with good hearing

Created date

November 29th, 2017
Different hearing aids.

Different hearing aids.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), about 30% of seniors ages 65 to 74 have impaired hearing, and almost half over age 74 do. “Adults typically notice a change in their hearing starting in their 50s,” says Annette Mazevski, Au.D, Ph.D., C.C,C,-A., F.-A.A.A. Dr. Mazevski is an audiologist and the manager of technology assessment at Oticon, Inc., a leading manufacturer of hearing aids.

Why so many people are affected

As with other parts of your body, age takes a toll on your ears, specifically the hair cells in your inner ear. When these cells are damaged or completely die, they do not regenerate, thus your hearing is permanently affected. It’s a gradual process, so you may not be aware of it. 

Age-related changes are not the only reason for hearing loss. “Many factors degrade our auditory system over time, leading to presbycusis, or hearing loss attributed to getting older,” Mazevski says.  “Examples include noisy occupations like construction work, and spending time in loud recreational venues like concert halls and restaurants. In addition, diet, lifestyle, and medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure can affect your hearing.”

According to NIDCD, excessive doses of some common medications may have a temporary or permanent effect on hearing, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDS) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxyn; aminoglycosides, a class of antibiotics that includes gentamycin, neomycin, and amikacin; and certain diuretics such as furosemide and bumetanide. Some chemotherapy drugs are also associated with hearing loss. 

Coping with hearing loss

“People with hearing loss shouldn’t pretend they hear everything,” Mazevski says. “Misunderstanding can make the rest of a conversation confusing and draining to everyone involved. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for clarification.”

“Read lips when you find yourself in a tricky listening environment,” Mazevski continues. “It isn’t a very hard skill to learn and it really helps improve communication and everyday interactions. To be successful at lip reading, it’s important to be in good lighting and directly facing the other person.”

Not hearing well can be a distraction, especially if you are driving. “Keep the radio volume down and ask passengers to speak up if they are chatting with you,” Mazevski suggests. “If you like to go out to eat, choose quieter restaurants and get there at less popular times.”

A simple solution

NIDCD statistics show that less than one-third of people age 70 and over who could benefit from wearing a hearing aid actually use them. 

“I have talked to many seniors who don’t want to wear hearing aids,” says Susan M. Tellem, R.N., B.S.N., a partner with Tellem Grody PR., Inc. in Malibu, Calif. “They do not want other people to notice the device, or they think it will not significantly improve how well they hear.” 

“Many seniors have trouble accepting they’re getting older and can be resistant to certain diagnoses and solutions, such as hearing aids, that could be considered a sign of aging and dependency,” Mazevski adds. “Not wearing a hearing aid, however, can have an effect the aging adult wants to avoid—the appearance of getting older—because an individual will strain to hear, which can limit their engagement in conversations and other social activities.”

Today’s hearing aids

“When I began wearing hearings aids, I was amazed at how much my life changed for the better,” Tellem says. “Today’s hearing aids are so technologically advanced, they can make a noticeable difference in how well you function in many aspects of daily life.”

Hearing aids have come a long way since the crudely constructed ear trumpets of the past. “Many hearing aids have Bluetooth capability and some are Internet-connected and can communicate directly with a wide range of devices,” Mazevski says. “Wearers can listen to TV; connect with doorbells, smoke detectors, and other smart devices; and even get the weather report—all through their hearing aids.”

Not everyone needs (or wants) the latest model of hearing aid. This is where an audiologist’s services can be useful. “When you visit a hearing care professional and have your hearing tested, you can get a better understanding of your type and degree of hearing loss and what hearing aids can do for you,” Mazevski says. 

Once you know exactly what you need, you can compare prices. Some hearing aids have higher prices because the price includes a long-term service contract. Inquire from the purchaser if you can eliminate that stipulation and opt to pay for service only if it’s needed. 

Assistive technologies

“Hearing assistive technologies, including companion mics, teleloops and telecoils, and other FM systems, are great to improve ease of listening in a number of public and large venues,” Mazevski says. “This can include auditoriums, concert halls, places of worship, and educational settings, including the classroom and lecture halls.”

There are also captioning services for televisions, movies, and telephones. Professionals are available who can help modify your home so you feel safer and more independent.

“Doing something about your hearing loss has many positive impacts,” Mazevski says. “You can be more socially active and remain involved in your community. You can engage with your grandchildren and enjoy social gatherings, such as weddings. Hearing well allows you to fully engage in all of life’s moments and memories.”