Hearing loss in the elderly: don’t ignore the first symptoms!

Over the years, our body decreases the production of some nutrients and vitamins. At the same time, some functions and mobility do not work as well as in youth. One of these disorders, which happens frequently, is hearing loss in the elderly.

This problem can occur for several reasons, the most common of which is the degeneration of auditory cells. It affects not only the ability to hear, but it can also have physical and psychological consequences.

However, there are several treatments and procedures that make it possible to live with the disability; and improve quality of life in most cases.

With this in mind, we prepared this post with information on hearing loss in the elderly, their symptoms, consequences and ways of prevention and treatment. Good reading!

What is hearing loss in the elderly?

Hearing loss can be diagnosed and classified into four types: sensorineural, conductive, mixed and neural.

Sensorineural loss is when there is damage to the auditory nerve or hair cells inside the ear.

Conductive occurs when sounds cannot reach the inner ear to be transmitted to the brain, being stopped in the middle ear. This usually occurs when there is an accumulation of some substance in the ear, such as wax or fluid from infections.

Mixed is a hearing loss characterized by the combination of sensorineural and conductive. It affects the middle and inner part of the ear.

Neural hearing loss manifests when there is a total absence or damage to the auditory nerve. This is considered the most serious type of the disease. In this case it is not possible to transmit sound waves to the brain.

How are the symptoms?

Hearing loss is a gradual process with several symptoms. The more we pay attention to the problem, it can be prevented or even reversed with the correct diagnosis and treatment.

It is very important to be aware of these signs that can arise as a result of the person being losing hearing. See what they are:

  • difficulty understanding what other people are saying;
  • TV or radio sound too loud, and others complaining about it;
  • make use of lip reading during a conversation in which you are not understanding what the interlocutor is saying;
  • difficulty talking on the phone.

In addition to these symptoms, a characteristic of those who suffer from hearing loss is the difficulty in understanding other people’s speech, especially the high pitched sounds, such as the words that contain the consonants t, p, ks, f.

Which doctor to look for?

When realizing that the elderly person has evidence of hearing loss, it is recommended to seek a specialist doctor  ; in this case, the otorhinolaryngologist. It is he who will order the various tests to identify the problem and its cause. One of the most common tests is that of audiometry, where the doctor measures the smallest volume of sound that the person can hear.

As mentioned above, one of the most common causes of hearing loss in the elderly is the death of some hearing cells. But there are other factors that can affect hearing throughout life, such as infections, hypertension, smoking, trauma, use of toxic substances in the ears and  diabetes.

How is the treatment?

Currently, there are several treatments for hearing loss in the elderly. Each depends on the type and cause identified in the diagnosis.

In sensorineural loss, the damage caused by the disease cannot be reversed and is progressive, but there are therapeutic practices that reduce the impact and improve the quality of life. In mild cases, hearing aids are used. In the most advanced, middle or cochlear ear implants can be installed.

Conductive loss can be mild to moderate. Treatment will depend on the cause. Tests are carried out   to identify what caused the condition and define solutions. When it occurs due to some type of blockage in the ear canal, antibiotics and surgeries for correction or removal may be recommended; the most severe cases require the use of hearing aids.

In the case of mixed loss, it depends on the reason and the degree of intensity. Because of this, the treatment can combine different methods to achieve the best result. It can be through surgery,  medication , middle ear implants and hearing aids.

Neural loss, unfortunately, cannot be treated. There are no nerves to transmit sound waves to the brain.

When to consult the specialist?

Ideally, the patient should seek help as soon as they notice any of the symptoms or any change in hearing. Late treatment and follow-up can affect the elderly’s daily life. In addition, it generates psychological disorders. See some of the common consequences of those who start treatment late.

Social withdrawal

Due to the difficulty of communication resulting from hearing loss, it is common for the elderly affected by the disease to isolate themselves socially. Something that can occur frequently is the feeling of worthlessness, which can lead to depression. Therefore, it is recommended to seek professional or psychological help to deal with the situation.

Difficulty adapting to treatment

Another recurring problem is the difficulty of adaptation. Especially in cases of hearing aids or ear implants, where the perception can be altered.

Family distancing

As in the social withdrawal situation, hearing loss in the  elderly often  affects the family relationship. This is because the person affected by the problem begins to live a new reality. If the family does not understand and strive to help, there is a distance, especially by children and adolescents.

Hearing loss in the elderly can be considered a serious problem, with serious behavioral damage if it does not receive due attention. So, watch the people around you carefully and don’t ignore the first symptoms; they can prevent total hearing loss.

 

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