Loss of hearing is one of the many ailments that afflict an aging person. This gradual hearing loss due to aging is called 'Presbycusis'. Usually when it strikes, the person is not really aware that he is suffering from hearing loss. It leads to delay in treatment due to which there is a certain degree of embarassment involved when communicating with others. It also happens that you keep increasing the volume of TV, radio, etc. without realizing it and also talk louder than is necessary. Sometimes you may start standing closer to the other person in order to hear better and thus in effect, make the other person uncomfortable. It leads to loss of confidence thinking that the others do not want to talk to you, but the truth is that lately, you have not been responding much to their talks  because you are unable to hear. This awakening comes a bit late or is often a rude one. But now with many advances in medical field and methods of preserving some degrees of intact hearing, hearing loss can be treated with good results. There are now different types of hearing aids available in the market that are very easy to use and are quite light in your ears.hearingloss

Age-related hearing can affect both the ears and its severity is from mild to severe. Due to loss of hearing, mumbled or softly spoken whispers are not audible, or in a public place where there is a lot of loise, such as traffic, you are unable to hear anything well. There is also lack of ability to distinguish between similar sounds such as T, D, S, H, F, TH etc.

Causes of Decreased Hearing

There are two types of hearing loss: Conductive and Sensorineural. Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves from the outside world fail to ear anatomyreach the inner ear, normally due to obstruction such as wax buildup or problems in the eardrum or the middle ear. Also, due to aging effect, the tiny hairs in the ear that carry the sound waves die with age and hence fail to carry the sound waves to the brain.

In Sensorineural heaing loss, sounds reach the inner ear but fail to reach the brain because of damage to the inner ear or acoustic nerve. The chief cause of such permanent hearing loss are the effects of age, arterial disease which can reduce the blood supply to the acoustuc nerve, and prolonged exposure to excessive noise levels.

Sudden or prolonged noise from a loud workplace such as drilling sites, construction sites, rock concerts, etc. damage the nerve like endings of the acoustic nerve.

Now another new cause has been added to this - prolonged and long intervals of talking and listening on the cellphones, this has given rise to the tinnitus or ringing in the ears, gradually leading to loss of hearing.

Researchers also now believe that presence of the large number of unstable oxygen molecules, known as free radicals, also may cause damage to the acoustic nerve.

Deterioration of the stirrup bone in the ear due to aging.

Other common cause for conductive hearing loss include inflammation of the middle ear, a boil or wound in the outer ear, and wax buildup in the ear canal. Due the infection, there is presence of thick fluid in the middle ear which may cause temporary hearing loss.

Prevention

Early measures that can prevent or contain the severity of hearing loss include boosting your resistance to infections and allergies. Stabilizing your body's fluid balance, combating arterial disease and addressing the causes of aging.

This involves eating a healthy, balancing diet that includes plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Also, limiting your intake of sugar, refined carbohydrates and salt helps. Get enough regular exercise on a daily basis and give up smoking and drinking. In particular, smoking affects ears a lot. If you suffer from allergic rhinitis, try to find the triggers for it and get it treated immediately.

Avoid sudden or prolonged exposure to loud noises. If due to work conditions it is not possible for you avoid loud noises, make sure that you wear efficient earplugs or other protectors and take a supplement of antioxidants for a few days at intervals. But these should be taken with proper medical supervision only. These nutrients help neutralise the damaging effects of free radicals on the ears.

If you have a known arterial disease, strictly follow a diet that preserves the health of the arteries and nerves supplying the ears. Take supplements of antioxidants and magnesium.

Avoid nasal congestion and blowing violently through nose. This may cause further damage in the inner ear. If affected by congestive colds, take steam therapy with plain water frequently and keep your nose moist with sterile saline solution. This will relieve congestion and will contain the infection to nose itself without spreading it to the ears.

Ensure that there is no wax buildup in your ears by cleaning them frequently with good quality ear buds. Do not insert any kind of pins or such things to remove wax. If the impaction is severe, then see a doctor who will prescribe ear drops to soften the wax and then get the wax removed carefully.

Tests for Hearing Loss

Audiometry test is the best to determine what type of hearing loss it is, how severe the damage is and in some cases, also to determine the cause of hearing loss.

Acoustic impedence test is conducted to determine the pressure in the middle ear.  These are only the general kind of tests I have given here. There are many other sophisticated types of tests that can be carried out.

Treatments

Surgery to repair the damage to stirrup bone, usually this bone is replaced with an artifical stirrup.

Hearing aidsUse of various types of hearing aids - these are of following types - behind the ears, inside the ear, inside the ear canal etc. Depending on the severity and intensity of your hearing loss and on the convenience, you can opt for any of these types without any problem.

If both the ears have been affected, using the aid in the hear with a lesser degree of damage or severity.

Avoiding talking on cell phones for long period of times.

Ensuring that your ears are protected when outside, especially while riding on a bike.

By taking the above measures and more importantly, paying close attention to the changes in your own speech tones and hearing sensation, hearing loss can be detected early and thus enable you to take timely action. More importantly, do not be hesitant to use a hearing aid, it will only help you hear better and thus help you continue with a full and fine social life.


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