Much like the rest of the human body, a person’s hearing changes throughout their life, often starting to become noticeably worse after they reach about sixty years old. While this is seen as a natural process, various factors have an influence on a person’s hearing in their old age that have nothing to do with their aging body. Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons why a person’s hearing deteriorates as they age and explore some ways people can go about offsetting some of the effects of hearing loss.
Not Enough Regular Checkups
Regular visits to your audiologist are essential for good hearing health and picking up conditions that will affect your hearing in the long term. A variety of hearing-related issues can present in very mild, treatable forms many years before they ultimately result in a complete loss of hearing, making regular visits to an audiologist at least every 10 years essential for the continued good health of your hearing.
In addition to picking up treatable conditions, as technology and medical science advances, regular visits to a specialist become even more valuable as audiologists may be able to assist with issues that were once untreatable, such as new surgery options for congenital abnormalities in the ear. If your family has a history of hearing loss, you should consider even more frequent checkups. If you don’t have a dedicated specialist already, websites like phonak.com/en-us/find-a-provider can help find an audiologist near you.
Procrastinating When Problems Arise
In addition to not enough visits to a specialist, a person’s hearing may deteriorate if they fail to treat problems with their hearing when they first appear. Small changes in a person’s hearing, such as mild tinnitus symptoms, are often left untreated as many assume that they are temporary issues that will remedy themselves if given time to heal. While this may be true, some serious conditions related to a person’s hearing do present with very mild symptoms. That is why it is vital that people monitor the condition of their hearing regularly and, if they notice any major changes or concerns, they should book an appointment with their specialist.
While some genetic conditions associated with hearing loss are present from birth, thanks to the sheer number of mutations that can affect a person’s hearing, some inherited issues only start presenting much later in life. Genetic-related conditions are caused by mutations or abnormalities in a person’s genes, with many of the adult-onset conditions associated with the cochlea and the sensory hair cells in the human ear. Genetic issues can also be compounded by external factors, such as continued exposure to loud noises. For this reason, early detection is vital so a person can avoid conditions and situations that could cause dramatic deterioration of their hearing.
Other Medical Conditions
While genetics play a significant role in hearing loss, there are many other reasons why a person’s hearing may deteriorate as they age. This includes a variety of diseases, some of which you may think have nothing to do with ears, such as sexually transmitted diseases and diabetes. When it comes to the latter, many people who are diagnosed with diabetes early on in their life may take many years to feel the effect on their hearing, and it often presents later in life as continued high blood sugar levels damage the small nerves and blood vessels in the ear. Diabetes can also damage the nerve pathways that deliver signals between the inner ear and the brain, causing hearing loss that will worsen with age.
Some Medications Can Cause Hearing Loss
Medical science and the medications that doctors prescribe have proven a major boon to humanity, being responsible for lengthening the average human lifespan as well as improving people’s quality of life as they age. Unfortunately, medications are often also responsible for a variety of other issues in the human body. This includes very strong medication, such as those used during chemotherapy, as well as quite common medications, such as aspirin. It is for this reason that many doctors do not advise that a person takes more than 8 to 12 aspirin per day.
Other medications that have been linked to hearing loss include those that contain quinine, pain relievers with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory properties, and aminoglycoside antibiotics, which are typically used to treat severe urinary tract infections, endocarditis, bacteremia, and infections of the abdomen.
Long-Term Exposure to Environmental Noise
While short-term, infrequent exposure shouldn’t have a dramatic impact on a person’s hearing, if a person is exposed to sounds above 70dB every day for years, their hearing will very likely be affected. How loud is 70dB? The answer may surprise you. The average conversation is rated at around 60dB, with a blender coming in at around 80dB. Sitting squarely between the two, the average dishwasher or washing machine is rated to produce 70dB. Bear in mind, however, that sound exposure that can cause harm is rated over a 24-hr period, meaning that you could reduce the impact of those periods of loud noise with reparative quiet time.
Another key factor to consider is a person’s proximity to the source of the noise. You may work in a factory with machines that operate well beyond the 70B average acceptable limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency but, due to distance and intervening objects, the sound you hear may be well below the acceptable limit.
Aging is inevitable, and hearing loss is a condition that affects a growing number of adults around the world each year. The good news is that many types of hearing loss are treatable and, even if they are not, some measures can be taken to stop a person’s hearing from deteriorating too rapidly. That is why frequent visits to an audiologist are invaluable in the fight against the effects of aging. These checkups are especially important for people with a family history of hearing loss as well as those who work in very loud environments, such as on a factory floor.