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Age related hearing loss information

If you are over 65 years old, chances are that your hearing may be impaired to some extent. Signs of age-related hearing loss can start appearing as early as in a person's 40s, and gradually becoming more and more noticeable. According to the charity Action on Hearing Loss, (previously known as the Royal National Institute for the Deaf) out of the UK's estimated 9 million people who are hard of hearing, 70% are over 65 years old. The overwhelming cause for hearing loss amongst this group is thought to be age related hearing loss.



Most people may experience some level of hearing loss as the body gets older. However, the amount of hearing loss will vary person to person, based on a number of other factors including:



- Exposure to loud noise, usually over a number of years (also known as noise-induced hearing loss) due to lifestyle choices and/or workplace environment.

- A family history of hearing loss: if your parents or siblings have age related hearing loss, there is a greater likelihood you may as well.

- Certain drugs, medication and medical conditions can contribute to hearing loss.

- Smokers have been shown to have a greater likelihood of hearing loss compared to non-smokers.



Age related hearing loss usually takes place gradually over a number of years. The inner ear is the place where the changes or deterioration occurs. Microscopic hair cells are situated in the cochlea (a part of the inner ear). These hair cells are essential in the process of converting information contained within the incoming sound waves into nerve impulses for the brain to interpret. When the microscopic hair cells are damaged due to infection or injury or deteriorate due to age related changes, the ability to hear will be affected.



The hair cells do not grow back, making hearing loss caused by this problem irreversible.
Not all is lost though. Modern technology offers a number of devices that allow the hard of hearing to manage the effects of hearing loss. The most common are hearing aids that can be used in all daily situations, from interacting with others to listening to a YouTube video.
Other assistive listening devices include amplified telephones, where one can choose further between corded, cordless and mobile options. In addition to the standard functions you'd come to expect from a phone, these feature extra loud ringers and adjustable volume control, usually far greater than on standard telephones. Amplified doorbells, alarm clocks and TV listeners are also available.



Other management techniques include using learning lip reading, which we all use without being necessarily being aware of doing so. For the hard of hearing individual it becomes even more important to ensure they are in the best position to see people's faces clearly.



Cochlear implants are often mentioned options for dealing with hearing loss, but this is used for severe hearing loss, and involves detailed surgery to put in place, and long term subsequent rehabilitation.



Before contemplating any of the above it is important to have one's hearing assessed. This involves having a non-intrusive hearing test at your local hearing centre or at your local NHS audiology department via a referral from your GP.



Article by Joan McKechnie, BSc Hons Audiology & Speech Pathology of Hearing Direct, Hampshire based company offering ALDs (Assistive Listening Devices) from tv hearing aids to hard of hearing telephones.

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