Diagnosing Hearing Loss in Adults and Seniors
Hearing loss affects approximately one-third of the adult population 61-70 years of age and more than 80% of those older than 80 years. As compared with women, men experience greater hearing loss. The most common type is the age-related hearing loss, but many conditions can interfere with the transmission of sound vibrations into the inner ears and their conversion to electrical impulses for transmission to the brain.
Experts at Halo Health Care say screening for hearing loss is recommended in adults older than 50 years. It is a common problem caused by aging, noise, disease, and heredity. People with hearing loss may find it difficult to have a conversation with friends and family. They may also have trouble responding to warnings, hearing alarms and doorbells, and understanding a doctor’s advice.
Hearing complications that are overlooked or untreated can get worse as you age. If you have difficulty in hearing, immediately consult a doctor. Special training, certain medications, hearing aids, surgery are some of the treatments that can help.
Signs of Hearing Loss in the Elderly
Some elders have a hearing problem without realizing it and there are many causes of hearing loss. You should consult a doctor if you see these signs:
- Can’t understand when children and women speak to you
- Think that others seem to mumble
- Have a problem hearing because of background noise
- Need to turn up the TV volume so loud that others complain
- Often ask people to repeat what they are saying
- Find it hard to follow conversations when you are part of a group conversation
- Have trouble hearing over the phone
Types of Hearing Loss in the Elders
Hearing loss in elders come in many forms, ranging from a mild loss where an individual misses certain high-pitch sounds like the voices of children and women, to a total loss of hearing.
There are two general categories of hearing loss in the older adults:
- The conductive hearing loss may occur when the sound waves aren’t able to reach the inner ears. This may be caused due to a buildup of earwax or fluid inside the ear, or a punctured eardrum. Surgery or medical treatment can usually repair the conductive hearing loss.
- The sensorineural hearing loss may occur when the auditory nerve or the inner ear is damaged. This type of hearing loss is usually permanent. Unexpected sensorineural hearing loss or sudden deafness is a condition that triggers prompt loss of hearing. It can happen to anyone all at once or over the course of three days. This type of condition is considered a medical emergency.
Age-Related Hearing Loss
Presbycusis is an age-related hearing loss that comes gradually as the person age. This type of hearing disorder seems to run in families for generations and may occur because of changes in the auditory nerve and the inner ear. Presbycusis can make it difficult for people to hear what others are saying or tolerate loud sounds.
Presbycusis most often arises in both ears, disturbing them equally. Since the hearing loss is gradual and slow, individuals with Presbycusis may not realize that they some of their ability to hear.
#2 Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Tinnitus, like Presbycusis, is common in older adults and is typically described as ringing in the ears. However, it can also sound like buzzing, hissing, clicking, or roaring. The sensation is not permanent, it comes and go and might be heard in one or both the ears. The sound may be soft or loud. Tinnitus can incorporate any type of hearing loss and experts say it can be a sign of other health conditions like side effects of medications, allergies, or high blood pressure.
It is important to note that Tinnitus is a symptom and not a medical disorder. Something as small as a piece of earwax can be blocking your ear canal causing you to hear unearthly voices.
Diagnosing Hearing Loss in Adults
Though general care physicians usually refer patients with hearing loss to audiologists for rudimentary hearing screenings, audiologists work in an assortment of settings including assisted living facilities, nursing homes, home health agencies, private and group practices, and hospitals.
Audiologists are not doctors but they are the health professionals who study the function of the inner ear. They help diagnose hearing problems via a series of diagnostic tests that includes pure-tone testing in which the individual wears earphones to listen for a sequence of tones at certain pitches from high to low. Formal audiometric testing is conducted in a sound-protected environment. Other audiometric diagnoses are also conducted depending on the degree of the condition. ENT specialists then help the patients medically and surgically manage the disease.
Patients may be unaware of the mild to moderate hearing loss due to its insidious inception and progression. It is crucial for everyone to go see a doctor and follow the standard checkup procedures.