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Along with all the maladies we face as we age, hearing loss is a common problem that makes life more challenging.  When the decline in hearing is age-related, it is known as presbycusis.  It often runs in families and may occur because of changes in the inner ear and auditory nerve.  It usually occurs in both ears, affecting them equally.  Naturally, the difficulty of not being able to hear makes something you’ve long taken for granted – interacting with the world around you – a more difficult task.

What is often missed is how hearing loss can complicate many other aspects of your life.  A major concern is that older people who can’t hear well often become depressed, as they experience frustration and embarrassment about not being able to follow conversations.  In addition, they are often perceived as confused, unresponsive or even uncooperative when the reality is they simply don’t hear very well.

Cognitive abilities, including memory and concentration, decline faster in older adults with hearing loss than in those with normal hearing.  Treating hearing problems may be a valuable tool for maintaining cognitive health.

The first line of defense is to recognize the signs of hearing loss.  If you are experiencing any of the signs listed below, contact your doctor to have your hearing checked.

  • Have trouble hearing people on the telephone
  • Find it difficult to follow conversations when two or more people are talking
  • Often need to ask people to repeat what they are saying
  • Need to crank up the volume on the television so loud that others complain
  • Have trouble hearing because of background noise
  • Think that other people seem to mumble

You should let people know if you are having hearing problems.  Encourage them to speak more slowly and to face you, as studies have shown watching a person’s lips form the words can have a profound impact on your ability to comprehend what is said.

Hearing loss usually occurs gradually, so the incremental decline is often not noticed until the problem gets to the point that it is impacting daily life.  When hearing problems are ignored, they generally tend to get worse.  If you suffer from a hearing problem, it is important to see a doctor. Why suffer or be embarrassed when there are some simple solutions to what can become a significant problem? Hearing aids, special training, certain medicines, and surgery are among the treatments that can help.