Hearing loss among the elderly is a widespread problem often compounded by feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression, and many hearing-impaired persons withdraw from society. But the first stop in overcoming a hearing impairment is learning to accept a handicap nearly 25 million Americans share.

All senses decline with age. Declining hearing is the result of normal wear and tear on the hearing nerves. Other circumstances that can accelerate this process include genetic and metabolic factors, exposure to noise, medications damaging to the hearing nerve and diseases of the inner ear.

The most important part of treatment is prevention, slowing down the aging process by avoiding noise and medications toxic to the ears, such as some antibiotics and fluid pills.

The first symptoms of hearing loss usually start around age 50. Sound may be confused in noisy environments, and people often complain they can hear but can’t understand. A person may also notice noise or ringing in the ears. At this stage, many people don’t realize they have a hearing loss because only high-frequencies of sound are affected, and a person may hear well in a quiet environment.

When a hearing impairment begins interfering with a person’s normal activities, several measures are available to help.

Hearing aids are one solution. Modern electronics and miniaturization make hearing aids better than ever before.

Through counseling, family and coworkers can learn to communicate with a hearing- impaired person by speaking distinctly and not competing with background noise. Victims of a hearing loss can also sharpen their skills at reading facial expressions and gestures.

In addition, several assistive-listening devices are available to help the hearing impaired. These include closed-captioned televisions and amplifiers for televisions and telephones; lights and vibrators to replace doorbells, alarm clocks and telephone ringers.

Hearing loss among the elderly is usually equal in both ears. If the loss is more severe in one ear than the other, or if there is more noise in one ear, the hearing loss may be caused by something other than aging. In this case, a medical evaluation by an ear specialist is needed.

For additional information or to make an appointment, please contact River Cities Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists, P.L.L.C. at (304) 522-8800 or (800) 955-3277.

Joseph B. Touma, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Touma Ear and Balance Center
1616 13th Avenue, Suite 100
Huntington, WV 25701
304.522.8800 or 800.955.3277