For many of us enjoying retirement, health problems appear to be part and parcel of growing old.
Thankfully, modern medicine has meant that more and more health blips can be managed, leading to a fuller and more enjoyable time spent with family and friends.
Hearing loss is no different; from sign language to hearing aids, here’s a run-down on what to do if you’re nervous of hearing loss.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Some common signs that you’re losing your hearing can involve some of the following day-to-day moments. If you regularly turn the TV up louder than your family adjusts the volume to, for example – or if you struggle to follow conversation when sat in a restaurant.
Finding it hard to hear over the phone can not only make it harder to connect with distant friends and family, but is also a sign of early hearing loss.
Either that, or your signal is struggling! If your partner regularly complains that you don’t listen to them – or you need to ask them to repeat themselves a lot – then hearing loss may well be the cause.
Left untreated, hearing loss can lead to mental health issues surrounding loneliness and depression.
Causes of Hearing Loss
To explain how deafness occurs, first you’ll need to understand how a healthy ear picks up noise. The process of hearing is quite complex. Let’s take the sound of a football hitting the floor as an example.
First, when the ball hits the floor, kinetic energy is converted to patterns of varying pressure in the surrounding air molecules. This pattern dictates the pitch, amplitude and frequency of the sound waves that ripple out from the contact.
Some of these sound waves are caught by the outer folds of your ear. From here, they’re channeled into the ear canal, leading to the eardrum.
As the sound waves push against the eardrum, three tiny bones pick these vibrations up. These bones are the malleus, stapes and incus; they amplify the sound vibrations and direct them to the cochlea.
The cochlea is a snail-shaped tube, filled with fluid, located in the inner ear. Once the vibrations hit the fluid in the cochlea, Hair cells ride the resulting wave.
The hairs near the wide end of the cochlea detect higher-pitched sounds, such as whistling, whereas the hairs closer to the center detect lower-pitched sounds, like a large dog barking.
Finally, these ripples are transformed into electrical signals by the stereocilia. These projections perch on top of the hair cells, bumping against the internal surface of the cochlea.
This causes chemical releases that in turn create electrical signals. Finally, these electrical signals are transported to the brain via the auditory nerve.
Gradual age-related hearing loss is usually caused by the hair cells degrading as time goes on. It’s functionally similar to noise-caused hearing loss, which sees an accelerated degradation to the hair cells by repeated exposure to loud noise.
If you’re nervous at all about your own hearing loss, go and get yourself booked in for a hearing test at your nearest clinic. From here, an expert can outline some of the following treatment options.
Hearing loss is far from rare. Around 40% of people over 50 have some form of hearing loss, so the good news is that you’re not alone.
There’s a variety of options available for you once you’re aware of the problem. Firstly, look at what behaviors and habits you can change at home, to prevent any further damage to the small hairs in your ears.
For example, when in conversation with someone that you’re struggling to hear, reduce background noise or move to a quieter area.
If you’re struggling to hear someone, make sure to face them, so that you can see their mouth, facial movements and gestures. This way, you can create a better idea of what they’re trying to say without having them shout at you.
Tell your friends and family about your hearing loss. The more close ones that you tell, the more people there will be to help you cope with your hearing loss.
All too often, deafness is perceived as rudeness, so letting close ones know before any issues arrive can really help stave off misunderstandings.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask people to repeat themselves, speak more slowly or write things down. Sometimes you need to prioritize your own requirements and part of that is asking for your friends and family to accommodate you.
As for what you can add to your ears to help your case, then one thing to look out for is whether you’re regularly exposed to loud environments .
If so, invest in some ear protection and make sure to apply those ear defenders when exposed to noises of 100 decibels or greater.
Hearing aids can be a lifeline to many who struggle with hearing loss, helping to re-establish a sense of normalcy. Hearing aids work by picking up external noises via an inbuilt microphone, then amplifying it into your ear.
There are a slew of different types of hearing devices. Furthermore, most digital hearing aids come with a variety of listening options. The setting you need will be contextual; largely dependent on the amount of background noise.
Hearing aids that make use of multiple modes can automatically change between programs; they can also be manually changed by the individual. Some hearing aids may also come with remote controls.
If your hearing loss is particularly severe then cochlear implants can help dramatically. Cochlear implants are tiny electronic devices that are surgically implanted in the inner ear. Another option could be bone anchored hearing systems.
They bypass both the ear canal and cochlear, making use of your body’s natural ability to transfer sound waves via bone conduction.
Bone anchored hearing systems include sound processors that pick up sound, convert it into vibrations, and relay the vibrations through your skull to your inner ear.
Finding the right solution is worth every single penny; the right hearing aid will drastically improve your quality of life.