Age-related hearing loss, otherwise known as presbycusis, is an aging-related alilment where an individual slowly begins to lose his/her hearing as time goes by.
What causes age-related hearing loss?
Our hearing is governed by our inner ear, where there are miniscule hair follicles which aid in our perception of sound. These hairs serve as receivers for waves of sound and they are processed into nerve signals which are then transferred to the brain. The brain interprets these nerve signals as sound.
When we grow older, these hairs tend to become weaker and many of them will die. This is problematic as these hairs do not regrow over time, and thus age-related hearing loss is permanent.
Age-related hearing loss can happen or be aggravated for a multitude of reasons. Commonly, it is known that exposure to heavy sound pollution (e.g. pneumatic drilling, loud rock concerts, listening directly to headphones on max volume, etc) play a large role in the damage done to these hair cells.
Factors (especially in one’s younger days) that can contribute to age-related hearing loss include:
- Frequent exposure to loud noises
- Genetic factors
- Pre-existing medical conditions
- Consumption of certain types of medication
- Habitual smoking
Find out more about age-related hearing loss here https://sadeaf.org.sg/.
What are the symptoms of someone suffering from age-related hearing loss?
It is important to note that age-related hearing loss progresses slowly.
Symptoms of age-related hearing loss include:
- Problems hearing environmental sound
- Anxiety and frustration
- Being unable to gauge distance of sound origin
- Problem with telling certain words apart
- Having to constantly ask people to repeat themselves
- Inability to discern certain pitches
If you or a family member are suffering from these symptoms, please visit an ENT specialist in order to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.
How is age-related hearing loss diagnosed?
When you visit an ENT specialist in Singapore, you will be given a full physical examination. This will help the ENT doctor rule out any other medical conditions that you might be suffering from that could be causing your hearing loss. Your specialist will use a special instrument known as an otoscope in order to examine your inner ear. This will rule out the possibility of impacted ear wax being the cause for your hearing loss.
Depending on your symptoms, the ENT specialist may require you to go for a hearing test to help determine the extent of your hearing loss.
How can my age-related hearing loss be treated?
Currently, there is no real cure for the condition of age-related hearing loss. You will instead be given functional symptomatic treatment to manage your hearing loss. Treatments to alleviate your hearing loss can include:
- Being prescribed with a hearing aid
- Using amplifiers for handphones/telephones
- Using sign language & lip reading to aid communication
For extreme cases of hearing loss, your ENT surgeon may suggest that a cochlear implant be administered. You will need to undergo an invasive surgery in order for that implant to be inserted. This will give the individual the ability to perceive sounds again, but does not correct the root cause of the hearing loss.
How will suffering from age-related hearing loss affect my life long term?
Age-related hearing loss is a condition that is known to worsen over time. As there is no cure for it, it is a very real possibility that the condition will leave the patient completely deaf after enough time.
This can have immediate and dangerous implications, as not being able to hear will make your environment considerably more dangerous, for example not hearing the horn of an incoming vehicle or danger signals such as a fire alarm. It is important that individuals suffering from hearing loss have a close social support system to provide both physical safety as well as to maintain a clean bill of mental health.
For individuals that are suffering from severe age-related hearing loss, consider reaching out to a social aid provider for help. Many such services can be found at the Singapore Association for the Deaf web portal.
When should I consult an ENT specialist if I am suffering from hearing loss?
If either you or your family member is suffering from any of the symptoms associated with age-related hearing loss, visit an ENT specialist in Singapore for a hearing test. Hearing loss can have very real implications such as vertigo, dizzy spells and loss of equilibrium, potentially dangerous conditions especially for older members of the community.
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Michels, T. C., Duffy, M. T., & Rogers, D. J. (2019). Hearing Loss in Adults: Differential Diagnosis and Treatment. American family physician, 100(2), 98–108.