Old age can bring a host of problems and begin the slow deterioration of your fitness, your senses, your brain power, and ultimately your overall health and well-being. One common symptom of an ageing body, that all of us have experienced among at least one of our elderly relatives, is hearing loss.
According to information provided by the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, age-related hearing loss is also called Presbycusis and affects one in 3 adults over the age of 65.
What Causes Age-Related Hearing Loss?
The Johns Hopkins Medicine revealed that the loss of hearing with age is so gradual at first that most people do not notice it until it’s too late. While Presbycusis damages the ability to hear high-pitched noises such as a ringing phone or a beeping microwave, it usually does not damage the ability to hear low-pitched noises.
Some common causes of age-related hearing loss are:
- Changes within the inner ear are the most common cause
- Changes within the middle ear
- Changes along the nerve pathways to the brain
- Continuous exposure to loud noise like traffic or loud music finally catching up
- Loss of hair cells which act as the sensory receptors in the inner ear
- Health conditions like heart disease or diabetes
- Side effects of medications like aspirin and certain antibiotics
Tips To Prevent Age-Related Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is a hazard that can lead to accidents and also cause debilitating conditions like dementia. According to a Lancet report, 8% of dementia cases are associated with hearing loss, which is almost 8,00,000 of the 10 million new cases of dementia diagnosed yearly.
To shed light on measures that can prevent age-related hearing loss, the team of OnlyMyHealth spoke to Dr Supriya Mohite, Masters Audiology and Speech-Language Pathologist, Owner and Founder, Hear-It Hearing & Speech Clinic, Kharghar, Navi Mumbai. She said, “Preventing age-related hearing loss is important for overall well-being,” and listed some simple tips:
Avoid Loud Noises
“Avoid loud noises, and if you can’t, use ear protection like earplugs and earmuffs in loud places, like concerts or construction sites. Take breaks from noisy environments to rest your ears,” recommended Dr Mohite.
According to Centres of Disease Control and Prevention, prolonged exposure to loud noise has the potential to harm cells and membranes within the cochlea. This extended exposure can lead to the overworking of hair cells in the ear, resulting in cell death and the progression of hearing loss. Typically, damage to the inner ear or the auditory neural system tends to be permanent.
Manage Medical Disorders
“Manage conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, as they can affect hearing,” stated Dr Mohite. A study by the Association of Otorhinolaryngologists of India labelled hypertension as an ‘accelerating factor’ in the degeneration of hearing due to old age. On the other hand, the American Diabetes Association elucidated that hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes.
Say No To Cotton Swabs
Dr Mohite suggested that you should let your ears clean themselves naturally. “Cleaning ears with cotton swabs can push earwax deeper,” she underscored. As per researchers from the Royal National Throat Nose & Ear Hospital, cotton swabs can tamper with your hearing by causing infections in the ear, perforating the eardrum, and pushing the ear wax deeper into the ear.
Practice A Healthy Lifestyle
Dr Mohite suggested, “Regular exercise improves blood flow, supporting ear health. Eat a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals for overall health, including ear health.”
As per the National Institutes of Health, consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes, olive oil, lean meats, fish, and low-fat dairy, and limiting sodium, sugar, and fat can lower your risk of hearing loss.
She also shared how some medications can harm your hearing. So, make sure you discuss the potential side effects of any prescribed medications with your doctor.
While some level of hearing loss is an inevitable consequence of ageing, it doesn’t mean that you should sit with your hands tucked in your lap and simply wait for your fate. Following Dr Mohite’s tips can help you prevent age-related hearing loss or Presbycusis at least to a manageable extent, and save you from accidents, social isolation, and diseases like dementia. Start following these tips as soon as possible.