Dealing with hearing loss over 50
WHAT DID YOU SAY?!
"Doc, I want you to test his hearing!" says Mrs T. Both husband and wife are in my office for their usual follow-up checks. Mr T is adamant that there's nothing wrong with his hearing and jokes that sometimes he pretends not to hear when his wife's nagging gets too much.
"Doc, he keeps turning up the TV very loud over the last year. Something must be wrong with his ears."
Just getting in their 60s, this couple is experiencing a common enough problem that is not always recognised. Studies suggest that between 20 to 40 per cent of persons over 50 years will have some level of hearing loss.
WHY IS MY HEARING GOING?
After convincing Mr. T that it won't hurt to have his hearing tested, two weeks later the audiologist report shows that he does have a significant gap in his hearing.
As we get older, we lose some of the sensory cells in the deep part of the ear. These cells are involved in communicating what we are hearing to the brain. Mr. T's hearing loss is likely to be caused from more than ageing. He was exposed to loud noise for many years as a factory worker. This kind of experience even from loud music can speed up the loss of those sensory cells.
Some chronic diseases and smoking can also affect your hearing, and don't forget good old ear wax which could be simply clogging up your ear canal.
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH MY HEARING
Hearing loss creeps up slowly on you. So while others notice that you are often asking them to repeat what they say, you don't answer or you claim you heard something else, you continue to argue that there is nothing wrong with your hearing.
If you do have hearing loss, your doctor can set you up to get specialist help. The treatment, among other things, may involve use of a hearing aid. I know you don't want to hear the words "hearing aid". You probably think of it as something for older persons who have become deaf. Just crossing your 50s or 60s, that's not really you! They heard you loud and clear and so over the years they have been making hearing aids better and smaller, so much so that they can be in your ear canal and no one has to know.
Hearing loss is a neglected issue in the 50 and over age group. Other than turning up the TV volume and getting into arguments with your relatives, here are some other signs that you should go talk to your doctor and arrange testing:
n Are you frustrated and often straining to hear and misunderstanding what others say?
n Do others need to raise their voices or repeat themselves when talking with you?
n Is it difficult hearing on the phone?
n When background noise is present, like in a restaurant, do you have trouble hearing what others are saying?
n Do you feel that hearing challenges are interfering with your social life?
n Dr Tomlin Paul is a family physician and university lecturer and author of the book 'Detailing Doctors!' Email email@example.com