Hearing loss among older adults is prevalent: Nearly two-thirds of those aged 70+ are affected. * Hearing loss can have a major impact on daily life. Whether you or a loved one is experiencing hearing loss, it’s important to act quickly. Here’s what you should know about hearing loss—and what you can do to combat it.
Hearing loss affects healthy aging in multiple ways:
- Cognitively. The brain must compensate for deteriorating auditory encoding, so resources typically contributing to thinking, memory, and other brain processes are redirected. This can lead to cognitive decline.
- Physically. As hearing loss sets in, parts of the brain that process sound begin to shrink. This can cause changes in brain structure.
- Socially. Older adults with hearing loss often start to give up activities with friends, becoming more isolated. Their driving skills can be affected as well.
So, what should you or your loved one do? The first step is to get regular hearing checkups. Don’t put this off because it doesn’t seem important. It is. If you notice subtle (or not-so-subtle) changes in your hearing at any time, go for a professional exam. Start with your primary doctor, who can refer you to one of these professionals:
- Audiologists. These professionals diagnose and assess hearing disorders, and they recommend and help fit hearing devices. They also teach you how to use the device you choose. Audiologists must have a graduate degree.
- Hearing aid specialists. These individuals can do everything audiologists do except diagnose disorders.
- Otolaryngologists. These are physicians who provide a complete medical evaluation and order tests that can lead to a diagnosis. They also develop a comprehensive treatment plan.
For those diagnosed with hearing loss, there are tools that improve quality of life. Today’s hearing aids are a dramatic improvement over earlier models; some even work with cell phones! The tools work best the sooner the diagnosis. If you suspect an auditory problem, let your concerns be “heard.”
Sharon Dickol is the owner of AgeWise Solutions and a Geriatric Care Manager. For information on available hearing tools, please contact Sharon at (302) 858-6449 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
* “Hearing Loss and Healthy Aging,” by Frank R. Lin, M.D., Ph.D. (A white paper for CaptionCall, LLC)