Hearing loss – or presbycusis – is one of the most common ailments humans will face as we get older. In fact, almost half of all people over the age of 65 experience some level of hearing loss. It is something many of us may not even realize is happening since it is usually a gradual process.
Any since our ability to hear comes from a rather complicated process that turns sound waves in the air into speech and sounds we can understand, several factors can contribute to a loss of hearing as we grow older. Some of the those factors are found here.
Exposure to Loud Noise Can Contribute to Hearing Loss
A we age and live our normal lives, we are exposed to many loud noises, often for extended periods of time. Loud music from a concert, in our cars or in our headphones can be a common source of these noises. Loud sirens, lawnmowers, excessive car exhaust noise, people screaming, jet engines – these things and many more can contribute to the noise level we are exposed to over our lifetimes.
This noise, over time, can damage and even kill the tiny hair cells in our inner ear that help process sound. Once these cells are gone, they are gone forever.
Our Aging Brains
At the end of the long process that results in our hearing and understanding of the sounds around us is our brain. As we age our brain gets older and tends not to function as well as it did in our youth. The same can be said of our ears and everything in between them and our brain. With all the parts that make up our ability to hear getting older and wearing down, it is natural that our hearing will be affected. Age can also affect the way our brain processes noise, affecting our understanding of speech and other sound.
A family history of hearing loss can also contribute to our degraded hearing ability as we get older. If we have a genetic predisposition to hearing loss, we are much more likely to experience it.
While those discussed above are some of the more common causes of hearing loss as we age, there are many more. Since there are so many steps involved in processing sound, a breakdown anywhere along the way can affect hearing.
Poor circulation or changes in blood flow to the ear or brain, ailments like diabetes and high blood pressure, certain medications (like chemotherapy drugs, for example) and smoking are other common causes of hearing loss as we age. All of these things make it harder to hear high frequency noises, the voices of women and children, and certain consonants. Hearing loss can have a devastating effect on our quality of life and how we interact with people around us.
Fortunately, there are ways to combat hearing loss, including the latest in hearing aids. If you are experiencing hearing loss of any degree, contact Dr. Joshua Light today for an appointment at one of our offices.