What is Hearing Loss ?
So just what is hearing loss and hearing health all about?
You may already know that hearing loss is hitting in almost epidemic proportions. And may know all about hearing aid costs and the newest digital hearing aids that abound. In fact, hearing health has become an issue for those in their fifties. Even forties. But why?
When my father suddenly lost all of his hearing in one ear, we had to do some learning, and fast. Then he soon gradually lost 60% of his hearing in the other ear. So I had did some serious studying about what is hearing loss. Now Dad is almost deaf. But he's a real trooper and has seemed to adjust. As his caregiver, I have had to as well.
Hearing loss has become a major public health issue, with an estimated over 28 million Americans suffering to some degree. And increasing. It has become a serious elderly problem for those over age 65. Sometimes as we age, sudden hearing loss also occurs; (as with Dad) and it is scary. With all these concerns, it is vital to understand the basics. We had lots of coaching about what is hearing loss, from a variety of medical specialists in the field.
All types of hearing loss involve reduction in the sensitivity to sound. It happens when something abnormal blocks the functioning of the important auditory system of the ear. This commonly occurs to the tympanic membrane. There may also be impairment to the normal friction that occurs in the three tiny bones in the ear called the malleus, incus, and stapes. Various types of hearing loss can involve either the middle ear or inner ear.
To answer "what is hearing loss," we must first understand the kinds. There are three main types:
- Conductive hearing loss -- (middle ear)
- Sensorineural hearing loss -- (inner ear, auditory nerve or brain)
- Mixed hearing loss
Hearing loss due to aging is called presbycusis
, and is the most common of the types of hearing loss. It can be caused by different factors: damage to the sensitive hair cells in the ear, degeneration of the ear neurons and auditory nerve, degeneration to the ear’s blood supply system, or stiffening of the ear’s basilar membrane.
Many patients have a mixed hearing loss, partly due to neural factors and blood supply factors. Also common is
high frequency hearing loss,
the inability to hear certain frequencies, perhaps women's and children's voices and soft sounds. This is one of Dad's biggest problems. The result is extreme difficulty in socializing.
The causes of hearing loss described here are generalizations, and obviously an ear specialist should be consulted to give proper testing.
More Than Loss of Hearing
But many elderly who experience hearing loss symptoms resist or are in denial, so do not obtain testing. Hearing loss can sometimes further define the concept of “old age.” A stigma. Or it can be stubbornness. Many elderly just don’t want to deal with the problem because the hassle and implications can be overwhelming. Other elderly people may admit they have
hearing loss symptoms
but deny that it is affecting them and so do not get help.
The effects of elderly hearing loss are more than physical, especially if there is sudden hearing loss. But depending on the cause, there are options for
sudden hearing loss treatments.
Hearing loss is one of the major elderly issues and contributor to elderly depression and anxiety. They can lose self-esteem. Hearing loss can result in isolation and inability to participate in social activities because the elderly person cannot hear others. But they may try to fake it and hide it. Some elderly cease attending church. There is loss of entertainment such as enjoyment of music, attending movie theaters or concerts, or watching TV, especially if vision loss in a problem as well. The result is an overall decrease in quality of life.
Now with the aging of baby boomers, less stigma is attached to the issue of what is hearing loss. And more attention is being given to hearing loss prevention, research and treatments. With hearing aid costs becoming more affordable, these are important life- enhancing options. Nowadays there is a stronger trend for the 55+ aging population to admit to and deal with hearing health and hearing loss early -- instead of letting it interfere with a fuller quality of life.
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