Hearing loss can occur to anyone, at any time, whether it be present at birth or acquired later in life. A commonly recognised form of acquired hearing loss is presbycusis or decreased hearing acuity that is directly related to the aging process of the human body. Often, most elderly persons with hearing loss are unable to be provided a direct cause, however, many may attribute the loss to lifelong noise exposure and general changes in the anatomy of the human body that are consistent with aging.
The onset of hearing loss varies among the elderly. Some are affected slowly, while others may experience a sudden loss. Common symptoms may include needing to turn the radio and television up to a louder volume, misinterpreting the meaning of other’s messages and asking others to speak louder and repeat themselves frequently. These symptoms may make it difficult for an elderly person to manage his or her own finances, follow doctor’s orders and comprehend basic social interactions at home and in the community.
Once symptoms are recognised by the affected person or the surrounding caregivers, it is important to get proper diagnosis as early as possible so that the potential for more serious conditions may be ruled out. For example, it is not uncommon for family members and caregivers to mistake symptoms of hearing loss for dementia. It is also possible for hearing loss to coexist with symptoms of dementia, which can be both frustrating and confusing for the affected person and those around him or her. Prompt treatment can help reduce the struggles of daily living and may help maintain independence and quality of life.
Based on the audiologist’s specific diagnosis of hearing loss, treatment options and compensatory strategies will be discussed and made available to help lessen the severity and impact on one’s life. These options can include simple solutions, such as, cleaning wax out of the ears, utilising adaptive equipment such as wireless headphones for the radio and television and increasing awareness for communication partner’s to use raised speech.
Other common treatment includes use of hearing aids. It is best to follow the recommendations of the audiologist, as he or she will be able to best identify the most beneficial means of treatment for each individual case.
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