What really happens when you lose your hearing

Hearing loss affects so many of us as we age.

Have you heard of presbyacusis? You might not know what the official term means, but the majority of the population does actually know about this health issue.

Presbyacusis is the medical term for normal age-related decline in hearing as people grow older. Otherwise known as age-related hearing loss (ARHL), this condition is known to affect up to approximately 40 per cent of Australians over 65.

Hearing loss tends to develop over 50 years of age at approximately 1 decibel (dB) per year however cardiovascular issues and diabetes may accelerate these changes. Both ears are usually equally affected, with men often suffering worse deterioration than women.

Why does it happen?

All of your senses tend to decline with age, with the main affects being felt on your hearing, vision, balance, smell, and taste.

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This process is probably a wear and tear phenomenon, it also may be genetic. While the exact changes in your body are not completely understood, it is believed that your hearing may worsen due to the loss of hair cells and stiffening of membranes in the cochlea (inner ear).

What are the impacts?

It’s not only isolating and frustrating to the person suffering from the hearing loss, but to their friends and family.

You may struggle in social situations, at work, or using the phone, which can be stressful and incredibly isolating for some people. Feeling left out of conversations, or becoming increasingly frustrated because you can’t hear every day sounds is a common complaint from those with a hearing problem.

It can make being independent very difficult, as you rely on your partner or other family members to repeat information to you in social situations, or even just to help you go to the supermarket or speak with people on the phone.

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One of the little known impacts of hearing loss is that it can impact on mental health.

New research shows that untreated hearing loss has a profound effect on mental state, affecting everything from temperament to perceived life satisfaction to cognition.

Sadly, the average delay for seeking treatment is seven to 10 years, leading to an unnecessarily poor quality of life for millions of people.

Hearing loss can lead to:

Depression – people with hearing loss are 50 per cent more likely to experience depression.
Cognitive decline – it’s a significant problem that has been linked to untreated hearing loss in recent studies as well.
Social isolation – many seniors become frustrated with their efforts to hear and understand, especially in noisy environments. As a result they avoid activities, people and places they once enjoyed.
Anger – some people can become angry or annoyed at their hearing loss and how people won’t repeat themselves or speak louder.
What can be done about it?

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If you think you may have hearing loss, it’s very important you make an appointment with your GP, who can then recommend an audiologist.

Once diagnosed, treatment options are many. You may require a hearing aid or implantable hearing solution such as a cochlear implant and the pricing is surprisingly reasonable.

In most cases, a hearing aid and captioning of television shows and movies would be a sufficient form of treatment for age-related hearing loss.

You don’t have to suffer in silence.

Have you experienced hearing loss? How have you dealt with it?