Why hearing loss is normal, but still needs to be checked – Daily News

My 78 year old husband has a problem that becomes my problem. He is hard of hearing and will not consider hearing aids. I’m tired of screaming and getting more and more bored. Do you have any suggestions on how to convince him to at least get his hearing checked which will hopefully lead him to accept hearing aids? Thank you very much. GS

You and your husband are not alone. Only 14% of people with hearing loss use a hearing aid, even though we know it is part of normal aging. This age-related loss is called presbycusis and affects two out of three adults aged 70 and over.

Presbycusis can easily become a family affair. I remember frequent visits to a retirement community in Florida. Televisions blared as women shouted, “Turn off the TV!” It seemed to repeat itself in one apartment after another, year after year.

There are several reasons for the reluctance to wear a hearing aid. Given our society’s insensitivity to aging and the preference for young people, wearing a hearing aid can scream “I’m older.” For many, this is correct; for others, it is a confession that creates the fear of being judged solely on one’s age. Others may lack understanding or are indifferent to their irritating impact on others. And for many, the reluctance may be due to inconvenience and cost.

The question remains how to convince a person with hearing loss to use current technology to correct or compensate for it. One strategy is to point out the price we pay for ignoring hearing loss.

Isolation: If you can’t hear a conversation or decipher the meaning of words, people may stop talking to you, which means you’re left out. Being ignored can easily lead to isolation, which has many negative health implications. At the same time, others may make incorrect assumptions about your cognitive abilities because you are quiet, disengaged, and older.

Falls: Hearing loss is considered a risk factor for falls. Based on data from thousands of participants, researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine found that those with only mild hearing loss were three times more likely to have a history of falling. One explanation is that people with hearing loss may be unaware of their surroundings, making them more vulnerable to trips and falls. The inner ear affects balance and picks up cues from the environment, like an oncoming car. Hearing loss attenuates these signals.

Dementia: If nothing catches your husband’s eye, this might. Decreased hearing may be a significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, according to an emerging body of research. This impact can occur with very low levels of hearing loss. “It seems like the relationship starts the moment you have imperfect hearing,” according to Dr. Justin Golub, a leading researcher at Columbia University Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, quoted in The New York Times Magazine (20 October 2021).

There is more evidence. Dr. Frank Lin and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University have followed older people without dementia for an average of almost 12 years. The relationship between hearing loss and dementia was linear. Mild hearing loss doubled the risk, moderate loss tripled the risk, and people with severe hearing loss were five times more likely to develop dementia.

Since hearing loss can be caused by many factors, evaluation is important. Consider seeing a otolaryngologist, doctor who treats diseases of the ears, nose and throat, also often called “ENT”. Also consider a audiologist. Preparing for them requires a doctorate in audiology from an accredited educational institution and hours of clinical supervision. My guess is that most see the latter who also supply and sell the devices. There is also a recent trend of hearing assessment and purchasing online.

Thank you, GS, for your good question. For anyone over 70, chances are you have a hearing aid or need one to have what is called “hearing health”. Feel free to share this column with your husband and good luck. Be well and be kind to yourself and others. (Note: Anyone who wears a hearing aid, glasses and a mask will realize that there is very little “land” behind their ear.)

Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on aging, employment, and new retirement issues with academic, corporate, and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at [email protected]. Visit Helen at HelenMdennis.com and follow her at facebook.com/SuccessfulagingCommunity

About Anne Wurtsbach

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