Hearing loss can happen at any age; however, it is true that hearing loss is often a natural part of growing older. “Age-related hearing loss, or Presbycusis, is the loss of hearing that gradually occurs in most of us as we grow older. Between the ages of 65 and 74 years of age one in three people in the United States has hearing loss, and of those over 75 years of age nearly half have difficulty hearing,” explains Licensed Hearing Instrument Specialist in Concept’s Dubuque, Waterloo, and West Union clinics, Heather Houk. In fact, age-related hearing loss is the second most common condition amongst seniors.1
Gradually Declining Hearing
Age-related hearing loss is believed to be caused by changes to the functions of the cochlea that occur with age.2 Due to the slow progression of age-related hearing loss, it can be difficult to determine the difference between it and other slow onset hearing losses such as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).3 “Since age-related hearing loss happens gradually; you may not realize that you or a loved one has lost some ability to hear or understand,” Heather notes. Also, it usually affects both ears equally whereas NIHL could affect only one ear or both ears.
“NIHL is the number one cause of hearing loss,” President and Owner of Concept, Taylor Parker, adds. “As we age, the effects of NIHL can become more pronounced when combined with an age-related hearing loss.”
Risk of Isolation, Depression and Cognitive Decline
“Age-related hearing loss can make it hard to understand conversations on the phone, in the car, at church, in restaurants, and during doctor appointments,” Heather says. “Difficulty hearing can make it hard to enjoy those types of social interactions, and can lead those with hearing loss to isolate themselves from others, causing depression and anxiety.” Moreover, studies have shown that there is a striking association between age-related hearing loss and an increased risk for cognitive deterioration.4 The effort put into trying to cope with hearing loss can be so mentally taxing that our patients often tell us it was the catalyst in their decision to come to us for a consultation to improve their hearing health and overall quality of life.
When looking at the risks associated with age-related hearing loss, it’s clear that early detection and treatment is key to ensuring a better quality of life as one ages. The longer treatment for hearing loss is put off, the higher the risk for cognitive decline.