Hearing Loss in Adults

Our senses become less acute as we get older. An estimated half of Australians aged 60-70 years have some hearing loss, and this increases to 80% for those over age 80. Severity, of course varies. Hearing loss can be ‘sensorineural’ (affecting the cochlea and or nerve), ‘conductive’ (blockage in the middle ear) or a mixture of the two. Generally, age-related loss is sensorineural and other risks include past noise exposure, a family tendency (genetics), ear trauma and chemical exposure.

As we age the hair cells in the inner ear become less effective. This change cannot be reversed. Typical symptoms are difficulty hearing voices, usually picking up speech in a crowded room or when there is background noise (e.g. television). Sometimes those with the affected person notice it first because they have to keep repeating themselves.

Hearing loss can be isolating as many feel (incorrectly) embarrassed about asking for speech to be repeated. Collectively, we tend to be less accepting of hearing loss than visual loss and the need for glasses. There is no valid reason for this.

Hearing can be assessed by an audiologist. Depending on circumstances you may need a referral from your GP. Apart from a proper hearing test in a sound proof booth, there are no other specific tests usually.

Treatment is use of a hearing aid. Waterproofing, size, directional microphones, etc vary with the price. When is a hearing aid needed? That depends on the person and how they and those around them are affected.

Chat with your GP about any concerns you have with your hearing.

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