Quality Home Health Care

Hearing Loss: I am old and can’t hear – How do I manage my life?

Old Man Having Trouble Hearing

Old Man Having Trouble Hearing

One of the common health conditions that happen to senior citizens is the deterioration of their hearing. Many people wonder how they can accept hearing loss and cope with the effects it can have on their lives. Like many of life’s changes, there is a psychological component to dealing with hearing loss aside from the hard facts of how to manage the physical disadvantages.

Dealing with the psychological piece may be the most difficult part. Here are some ideas to help you along:

  • Let others know how losing your hearing has emotionally affected you. This may stop them from saying things like “Never mind. It’s not important” when you ask them to repeat themselves.  Being open about your feelings will help you process them more quickly.
  • Talk to a psychologist or your home caregiver about how it can feel demeaning to think that you are “no longer part of the normal world.” You are part of the normal world. You mean just as much as everyone else. You are very capable of living life as normally as you did before.
  • Value the place that you are in.   The fact is that when you are grateful for the things that you do have, you will lessen the sting of your hearing’s absence.
  • Remember your resilience. Think about the many times in your life that you have overcome seemingly insurmountable hurdles. This is just another challenge that you will overcome. You are strong.

Physical strategies for managing hearing loss can be part of the process of acceptance. Hearing loss is not usually something that happens all at once to elderly people.  It is common for a person to notice a gradual deterioration of their hearing over a period of months or years.  The rate at which it progresses differs between individuals.  Things that you can actively do to manage your hearing loss are:

  • Look into hearing equipment options. Technology has come very far, very quickly. There are now internal hearing devices as well as external. Your income, age, and health condition will help decide what type of hearing equipment is the best fit for you.
  • Sharpen your other senses.  It has been proven by studies that children and adults alike have overcome the disadvantages of blindness through using their sense of hearing.  A report was done on a young man who rode his skateboard around his neighborhood, avoiding being hit by developing a uniquely sharp hearing ability. Use your eyesight to make up for your hearing loss as much as possible.  Learn to read lips.  Ask people to write things down.
  • Develop new abilities.  It’s never too late to learn sign language. There is a whole deaf community out there who live daily life as normally as you did when your hearing was sharp! Contact them and make new friends.
  • Continue to be a part of a community. Staying active will only benefit you while you adjust to your new way of life.
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Hearing Loss – Its Types & Causes In The Elderly

Elderly Lady with Hearing Loss

Elderly Lady with Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is categorized into two general categories: sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. These two categories are further broken down into more detailed categories based on the cause of the hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss refers to the nerves’ loss of sensing ability in one of three areas – the central processing centers of the brain, the inner ear, or the vestibulocochlear nerve (cranial nerve VIII). The hearing loss can range from total deafness to only mild symptoms.   The most common type or sensorineural hearing loss occurs in the inner ear and when it occurs in the elderly, it is referred to as presbycusis.   Presbycusis is an age-related degeneration of the hair cells in the corti, an organ located within the inner ear.  Although the hair cells can be abnormally formed at birth or damages later in life by trauma or infection, age also plays a part in degeneration of the hair cells.  The sensitive hairs inside the corti interact with the eighth cranial nerve, which sends signals to the auditory part of the brain.   When someone suffers from presbycusis, the quality of sound that one perceives is so poor that the person lacks the ability to understand what is being said or to properly hear the sounds around them.  Prebycusis is more likely to occur in men than in women.

When someone suffers from prebycusis, there are some solutions to gain back normal levels of hearing.  For example, external hearing aids can be used to stimulate the hairs inside the corti by amplifying the sounds to a higher than normal level.  More recently, internal hearing implants have been created that can stimulate the auditory nerves directly and create a sharper quality sound.  There are two types of internally implanted hearing aids – bone anchored hearing appliance, which is attached to the skull using a tiny screw directly behind the ear, or an implant inserted directly into the corti.  It is important to remember that sensorineural hearing loss can also occur from prolonged exposure to loud noises, such as in a factory setting or when headphones have been used for long periods of time at high volumes. It is important to take proper precautions when exposed to loud noises to avoid the onset of prebycusis.

The second category of hearing loss is conductive hearing loss.  Conductive loss is a result of a disease or disorder that interrupts the sound transmission between the outer and/or middle ear to the inner ear. It can either be a temporary or permanent loss. Common causes of this type of hearing loss include:

• Injury to the outer ear
• Blockage of the ear canal
• Birth defects or infirmities
• Ear infections
• Perforation or stiffening of the tympanic membrane (ear drum) or middle ear bones
• Head Trauma

Similar to sensorineural hearing loss, hearing aids are also viable options for dealing with conductive hearing loss. Both external and internal hearing aids are options for those suffering from conductive hearing loss. If the hearing loss is serve, then another solution would be to bring in a homecare specialist who can provide assistance with getting from place to place or managing the daily chores.

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How’s your hearing?

Hearing Loss & Dementia

Hearing Loss & Dementia a correlation

Did you know 48 million people in this country currently suffer from hearing loss? Hearing loss associated with aging can begin as early as age 30. One-third of those of us over 60 have hearing loss. One half of those over 85 have hearing loss. It is important to be proactive if you suspect you have hearing loss. Early detection can get you help as well as aid in the prevention of the onset of additional age-related illnesses.

Studies by Dr. Frank Lin and others are suggesting there is a correlation between hearing loss and dementia. Dr. Lin is an epidemiologist and otolaryngologist at the John Hopkins School of Medicine. He published his findings in The Archives of Neurology in 2011 that linked the two. The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging measured the hearing of 639 subjects, who started out with healthy hearing, over the course of 18 years.

What he found was for those who had developed hearing loss, the greater the damage, the higher the risk of dementia. Dr. Lin concluded: “Compared to individuals with normal hearing, those individuals with a mild, moderate and severe hearing loss, respectively, had a 2-, 3- and 5-fold increased risk of developing dementia over the course of the study.

The findings remained true even with common precursors like high blood pressure and diabetes ruled out.

If you are concerned about dementia overtaking you, here are some common signs and symptoms to watch out for:

Memory loss. Probably the most common symptom is memory loss. From a young age we’ve all no doubt misplaced our car keys or searched high and low for our eyeglasses only to find them atop our heads. This is common and not something to be alarmed about. If you’ve lost something major, like for instance, yourself, you “come to” in the middle of an intersection during rush hour, alarms should go off now.

Expressive Aphasia. Words that normally came so easy to you are difficult to retrieve, even after much struggle.

Depression. We all experience highs and lows. But when your normal activities and hobbies bring you no pleasure, it may be time to see the doctor. The good news is there are plenty of mood stabilizers and other types of anti-depressants available to help you find joy in ordinary activities again.

Forty-eight million Americans suffer from some degree of hearing loss. If it can be proved in a clinical trial that hearing aids help delay or offset dementia, the benefits would be immeasurable.

“Could we do something to reduce cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia?” he asked. “It’s hugely important, because by 2050, 1 in 30 Americans will have dementia

 

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