In many multi-generational households, scenes like these play out almost daily:
Scene 1: After a long day, the kids return home only to find it challenging to communicate with their parents. Despite their efforts to engage in conversation, they're met with misunderstandings or requests to repeat themselves due to unclear hearing.
Scene 2: Grandparents, who've toiled for years, now find themselves shut out from the vibrant chatter of their grandchildren during school pickups. What should be lively conversations become fragmented snippets of sound, leaving them feeling disconnected.
As older adults either withdraw into silence or lash out in frustration, it's easy to chalk it up to the inevitable generation gap. However, hearing loss likely plays a significant role.
But what is age-related hearing loss exactly?
Age-related hearing loss stems from the natural degeneration of auditory organs. It's distinct from hearing loss caused by medication, noise exposure, inflammation, or genetics.
Reportedly, one out of every three people over 65 worldwide experiences some degree of hearing loss. In China alone, nearly 70% of the roughly 27.8 million individuals with hearing impairments are seniors.
How can you tell if an elderly person is experiencing hearing loss?
- Decreased sensitivity to sounds such as doorbells, phone rings, or bird chirps.
- Gradual decline in speech comprehension, leading to frequent misunderstandings or irrelevant responses.
- Narrowed dynamic range, resulting in difficulty hearing soft sounds and discomfort with loud noises.
What are the consequences of age-related hearing loss?
Direct Impact: Inability to hear clearly poses risks in various scenarios, from missing phone calls to endangering oneself in traffic. Communication breakdowns lead to social isolation and frustration.
Indirect Effects: Persistent communication difficulties breed feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and even depression.
Underappreciated Risk: Mild to severe hearing loss increases the risk of dementia. In fact, hearing loss ranks as the top risk factor for age-related dementia, according to The Lancet.
What causes age-related hearing loss?
Factors contributing to age-related hearing loss include genetics, overall health, stress, chronic conditions like hypertension or diabetes, exposure to ototoxic drugs, prolonged noise exposure, and unhealthy lifestyle habits.
Tips from ENT specialists:
If you suspect age-related hearing loss, seek medical advice promptly. Visit an ear, nose, and throat specialist for comprehensive audiological testing and personalized intervention.