In today’s world, life expectancy seems to be increasing for Americans. Majority of the older population have progressive and incurable diseases in spite of the immense advances in health care. The greatest factor of overcoming these illnesses and losses is, a positive attitude. “Behavior is guided by evaluation. Positive evaluations move people to obtain positive outcomes, whereas negative evaluations help them to keep away from negative events” (Hermsen et al., 2012, p. 356). With aging, it can be tough to keep a positive mind but with a healthy attitude and a positive outlook on life, you can get through any ailment including the most common hearing disorder in older age, presbycusis.
For the geriatric population, hearing is an important sense to possess. The most common type of hearing loss is presbycusis. This type of hearing disorder is defined as an inevitable deterioration in one’s hearing ability in older adulthood. This gradual hearing loss occurs in both ears and due to this deficit occurring at a slow pace, people may not be aware of the changes immediately. When developing this type of disorder, the ability to detect high-pitched noises becomes difficult but on the other hand, low-pitched noises are generally not affected. Presbycusis is characterized as reducing one’s hearing sensitivity and the ability to understand speech in noisy environments. It is rare to find an older adult who has not experienced hearing impairments or whose sensitivity has not declined.
According to Goldstein and Brockmole, “The ears are often bombarded with noises such as crowds of people talking (or yelling, if at a sporting event), construction sounds, and traffic noises. Noises such as these are the most common cause of hearing loss.” The cause of hearing loss is frequently associated with harm within the outer hair cells. “When the outer hair cells are damaged, the response of the basilar membrane becomes similar to the broad response seen from the dead cochlea’s examined by Bekesy; this results in loss of sensitive and a loss of the sharp frequency tuning seen in healthy ears.” In recent research, damage of the auditory nerve fibers may be involved in hearing loss as well.
There are multiple reasons for this condition to occur. One reason is when a person has spent their life being around loud noises. Today, it is difficult to be able to escape these loud noises resulting in presbycusis becoming more common with older age. Another cause is due to taking certain medications that can damage the ear. One of the medications include aspirin, so it is important to use in moderation. Another aspect can be a genetic factor, so it is essential to know about your family history and to prepare for this ailment.
Due to presbycusis being a progressive disorder, it is critical to know what other issues can occur when developing this sort of hearing loss. One may experience tinnitus, vertigo, and disequilibrium which is classified as a lack of stability. Presbycusis can also have a strong effect on the quality of life including a decrease in self-esteem, a feeling of sadness, and isolation. This disorder can be linked to depression. It is imperative to find help to prevent these side effects from becoming worse.
There is no direct treatment for this condition but there are multiple options that a person can take to improve their well-being and daily activities. The first step is to identify that one is suffering from presbycusis. Once the realization is made, the person is able to modify their daily living by avoiding loud noise exposure and use of ototoxic medications. For most cases, a hearing aid can improve one’s hearing immensely. A hearing aid is an electronic device that uses a “microphone to detect sounds that are then modulated (altered) and are amplified to comfortable levels to help for better hearing” A hearing aid is able to “ameliorate the withdrawal, depression, and emotional impact that are commonly associated with presbycusis and can lead to improvement in quality of life.” It is important to work with someone like an audiologist.
Even though the person has a hearing aid, it is only a small percent of the recovering from hearing loss. An audiologist is able to work with someone to help their brain make sense of the foreign information that is sent by this device. For people who are severely suffering from presbycusis, a “cochlear implantation offers hope to restore hearing.” Having this implant can improve function improvement similar to the younger generation with the cochlear implant. Another option that is less invasive is learning visual cues to figure out what is being said such as, speech reading. This type of reading allows one to be able to follow a conversation. They are able to do this by carefully observing body movement and the mouth of the speaker. With the help of trainers who are specialized in this field, one can learn how to obtain this skill.
There are many precautions people can take to prevent presbycusis from occurring. Avoiding too much noise and being a quiet enforcer are extremely important. One should consider buying appliances that have low noises. According to WebMD, “if it’s too loud in the movie theater, restaurant, or any other place you go often, ask the manager to turn it down.” One should also wear hearing protection including earplugs and earmuffs. It was found that wearing earplugs and earmuffs can reduce noise by 15 to 30 decibels. It is also essential to stay away from smoking. Research shows that smoking can increase the likelihood of losing hearing. Lastly, people should be sure to get their hearing checked frequently if they are having difficulty listening to conversations, are around loud noises on a regular basis, often hear ringing in their ears, or if their close relatives experience hearing loss.
There are frequent questions that are asked when it comes to presbycusis. One of these questions might include, “Which doctor should I seek help from when having presbycusis?” A person may want to consider seeing an otolaryngologist who are specialized doctors and surgeons who undergo operations to restore ailments, such as hearing. Like I explained earlier, an audiologist can assist people who are experiencing balance difficulties due to problems with the inner ear. Another question that may be asked is, “What kind of impact can presbycusis have on one’s life?” When developing this type of hearing loss, a person may experience misinterpreting words, not being able to hear instructions, and if a someone is knocking on the door, it may go unanswered. Due to this disorder, one can start to feel depressed and frustrated. It is important to keep positive and understand that millions of other people are experiencing the same difficulties.
Another frequently asked question is, “How can my friends and family help me?” The more friends a person tells about their hearing loss, the more people that are there to help one cope with their hearing disability. By telling friends and family, they will be more aware to face you when they talk and will understand that they may have to speak more clearly. When they are talking, they will be more inclined to turn off any background noise like the television or the radio. It is crucial to remain patient and continue to work on overcoming this obstacle.
Presbycusis is a progressive type of hearing loss that frequently occurs in the geriatric population. If you are experiencing a loss in hearing, it is important not to get discouraged and keep a positive outlook. It is critical for someone with presbycusis to avoid loud noises by wearing ear plugs or earmuffs. It would be beneficial to learn how to read visual cues and even try wearing assistive devices. Do not let this disorder ruin your life. Take charge and seek help immediately.