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Monday, April 20, 2020

What Happens To Your Ears As You Age?

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

Over the years, your senses encounter many situations and naturally get less sharp than before. As your ears specifically change with time, you may notice communication issues that affect your quality of life. Below are details about how your ears alter during the aging process.

Two Main Areas of Change
The ears have two main functions:
  • Hearing
  • Balance

Thus, when it comes to what alters with time, these two areas are affected. Both hearing and balance can suffer as a result of issues with the ears. Thankfully, a hearing aid can help someone with hearing loss to listen and participate in conversations better than they could do so before.

What is Presbycusis?
The most common type of natural auditory loss related to aging is called presbycusis. The process of diminished hearing is called presbycusis.

Specifically, it affects a person’s ability to hear sounds that are at a higher frequency, versus a lower vibration. That includes high-pitch voices, a ringing telephone, or a chirping bird.

While the sufferer hears voices loud enough, they are usually not heard clearly. The voices likely sound like the person speaking to them is mumbling, however, they are not doing so in reality.

A problem then for the person with presbycusis is that they cannot distinguish between every word or always understand the overall message being spoken. They also likely have trouble hearing words clearly when there is a lot of background noise, such as in a busy coffee shop setting.

Common Causes of Presbycusis
As a result of the natural aging process, presbycusis occurs in many older adults. It can start even sooner when noises contribute to the hearing loss too.

About 30-35 percent of those who are 65 years or older have at least some kind of diminished hearing. Commonly, it comes from changes to the inner ear as the individual ages, and it occurs slowly over time, so the person may not even realize they have a problem. It can also be from middle ear changes that hearing loss occurs.

About Noise Exposure
Another form of hearing loss happens as a result of exposure to sounds in the environment. While many of the sounds are at safe levels, others can be too loud and damage the ear.

Known as noise-induced hearing loss or NIHL, this condition can happen slowly over time or suddenly. The damaging noise can be sudden and intense, such as an explosion, or one that is continuous, such as a metal-working shop. It can also affect one ear or both.

As a result of NIHL, a sufferer might hear voices as distorted when having a conversation or turn up the television volume to listen to what is being said. Furthermore, being around loud noises over time can lead to tinnitus, a condition called tinnitus, which is typically characterized by a ringing or buzzing in the ears.

Balance Over Time and the Ears
Imbalance and dizziness are common among seniors, and both can relate to changes in the ears over time. Unfortunately, balance issues are a health concern as it puts an individual at a heightened risk of falling and injuries.

This type of incident would be especially severe for someone with fragile bones, such as a senior. A head trauma could result from the fall too, which is significant.

Of course, feeling dizzy and having balance problems in older age is not only associated with ear changes. It can also have muscular, neurological, and visual origins.

If it is an inner-ear problem, the part of the ear that relates is the vestibular system. Taking medications can intensify the disturbance.

Final Words on Auditory Changes Over Time
As you age, you may notice your ability to hear high-frequency sounds as clearly as you did in younger years. The changes can occur slowly over the years, or it can be sudden if there was a significant event that caused damage to the ear.

Seeing an auditory specialist to get fit for hearing aids can help many adults enjoy hearing well again. Regaining good hearing has the potential to improve the wearer’s self-confidence as they engage fully in conversations again without worry about not hearing everything clearly.

Lastly, take care to properly care and maintain the hearing aids so that they work properly for as long as possible with less need for repair. You will be fit for them by a hearing specialist so that they are comfortable and work well. Once you get used to wearing them, these devices can bring big changes to your daily life!
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