Hearing Loss&Older Adults
Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older adults. One in three people older than 60 and half of those older than 85 have hearing loss. Hearing problems can make it hard to understand and follow a doctor’s advice, to respond to warnings, and to hear doorbells and alarms. They can also make it hard to enjoy talking with friends and family. All of this can be frustrating, embarrassing, and even dangerous.
Do I have a hearing problem?
Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer "yes" to three or more of these questions, you could have a hearing problem and may need to have your hearing checked by a doctor.
|Answers ||Questions |
|yes ||no ||Do I have a problem hearing on the telephone? |
|yes ||no ||Do I have trouble hearing when there is noise in the background? |
|yes ||no ||Is it hard for me to follow a conversation when two or more people talk at once? |
|yes ||no ||Do I have to strain to understand a conversation? |
|yes ||no ||Do many people I talk to seem to mumble (or not speak clearly)? |
|yes ||no ||Do I misunderstand what others are saying and respond inappropriately? |
|yes ||no ||Do I often ask people to repeat themselves? |
|yes ||no ||Do I have trouble understanding the speech of women and children? |
|yes ||no ||Do people complain that I turn the TV volume up too high? |
|yes ||no ||Do I hear a ringing, roaring, or hissing sound a lot? |
|yes ||no ||Do some sounds seem too loud? |
What should I do?
Hearing problems are serious. The most important thing you can do if you think you have a hearing problem is to go see a doctor. Your doctor may refer you to an otolaryngologist, a doctor who specializes in the ear, nose, and throat. An otolaryngologist will try to find out why you have a hearing loss and offer treatment options. He or she may also refer you to another hearing professional, an audiologist. An audiologist can measure your hearing. Sometimes otolaryngologists and audiologists work together to find the treatment that is right for you. If you need a hearing aid, an audiologist can help you find the right one. Although children must be seen by a physician before they can be fitted for a hearing aid, adults do not always see a physician. Adults who do not see a physician before getting a hearing aid must sign a waiver.
Why am I losing my hearing?
Hearing loss happens for many reasons. Some people lose their hearing slowly as they age. This condition is known as presbycusis. Doctors do not know why presbycusis happens, but it seems to run in families. Another reason for hearing loss may be exposure to too much loud noise. This condition is known as noise-induced hearing loss. Many construction workers, farmers, musicians, airport workers, tree cutters, and people in the armed forces have hearing problems because of too much exposure to loud noise. Sometimes loud noise can cause a ringing, hissing, or roaring sound in the ears, called tinnitus.
Hearing loss can also be caused by a virus or bacteria, heart conditions or stroke, head injuries, tumors, and certain medicines.
What treatments and devices can help?
Your treatment will depend on your hearing problem, so some treatments will work better for you than others. Here are the most common ones:
Can my friends and family help me?
Yes. You and your family can work together to make hearing easier. Here are some things you can do:
- Tell your friends and family about your hearing loss. They need to know that hearing is hard for you. The more you tell the people you spend time with, the more they can help you.
- Ask your friends and family to face you when they talk so that you can see their faces. If you watch their faces move and see their expressions, it may help you to understand them better.
- Ask people to speak louder, but not shout. Tell them they do not have to talk slowly, just more clearly.
- Turn off the TV or the radio if it does not have to be on.
- Be aware of noise around you that can make hearing more difficult. When you go to a restaurant, do not sit near the kitchen or near a band playing music. Background noise makes it hard to hear people talk.
Working together to hear better may be tough on everyone for a while. It will take time for you to get used to watching people as they talk and for people to get used to speaking louder and more clearly. Be patient and continue to work together. Hearing better is worth the effort.
Where can I get more information?
NIDCD maintains a directory of organizations that can answer questions and provide printed or electronic information on hearing loss and older adults. Please see the list of organizations at www.nidcd.nih.gov/directory.
For more information, additional addresses and phone numbers, or a printed list of organizations, contact:
NIDCD Information Clearinghouse
1 Communication Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20892-3456
Toll-free TTY: 800.241.1055
Source: National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
Can't find the health information you’re looking for?
This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 7/27/2012...#5838