Hearing loss is a common issue for many older adults, but early detection and treatment can address whether it affects overall well-being enough to be screened and treated.
According to research*, 30% of adults between 65 and 74 experience hearing loss, and nearly half of those over 75 have difficulty hearing. Getting regular hearing screens and ear exams can help identify hearing problems early.
“Addressing hearing loss can help improve quality of life,” says Dr. Seema Siraj
, medical director in InnovAge’s San Bernardino PACE center in California
. “Losing your hearing can make it hard to hold conversations with loved ones or your medical providers, and it can also mean you may not hear alarms, the phone, or your doorbell,” she says.
“This inability to communicate effectively can lead to depression, social isolation, cognitive decline, and poor safety awareness,” says Dr. Siraj.
Annual hearing screens and ear exams can help identify hearing loss early. “Sometimes, hearing loss is caused by conditions like infections, injury, and tumors. Certain medications like antibiotics, chemotherapy agents, and others can also be a cause,” explains Dr. Siraj. “It’s important that whoever is doing your exams is aware of other medical conditions and medications, so they have a full understanding of your medical situation.”
Hearing aids and other devices can help restore hearing, but they need to be individualized to the person. “One size and type does not fit all. Sometimes multiple attempts and trials are needed before finding the best fit,” says Dr. Siraj.
Hearing loss often comes on gradually. Family members can help by looking for signs in older loved ones such as turning up the volume on the television, frequently asking people to repeat themselves, difficulty hearing someone call from behind, and difficulty hearing the phone ring. These are all signs that a hearing exam may be needed.
*Source: US. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)