How Can Older Adults Cope with Hearing Loss?
As we age, we may experience an overall reduced ability to hear things clearly. Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, comes on gradually and usually occurs in both ears. Older adults may also experience ringing in the ears, known as tinnitus.
There are two general categories of hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve and is typically permanent. Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves cannot reach the inner ear and is typically restorative. These types of hearing loss can be caused by a variety of factors including earwax or fluid buildup, a punctured ear drum, prolonged exposure to loud noises or health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Although hearing loss is common in older individuals, changes in your ears and overall health shouldn’t be ignored as they could be a sign of other underlying health problems.
One of the most important steps to take if you think you have a hearing problem is to consult with your primary care physician. Your doctor may refer you to other experts such as an ear, nose and throat doctor or an audiologist. They may also offer assistive-listening devices including hearing aids, alerting and visual devices and cochlear implants.
Here are a few other coping mechanisms and helpful tips to protect against severe hearing loss:
- Avoid constant or continuous exposure to loud noises
- Wear ear plugs or special fluid-filled ear muffs (to prevent further damage to hearing)
- Avoid using cotton swabs to remove earwax; ask your doctor for best practices
- Keep medical conditions under control; manage your blood pressure and cardiac health
- Talk to your doctor about medications and any noticeable side effects including hearing loss
- Avoid smoking and vaping, limit drinking
- Select healthy food choices and exercise regularly
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