According to the RNID (The Royal National Institute for Deaf People) in the UK there are over 9 million hard of hearing. Interestingly, within this group, the vast majority of 6.5 million are over the age of 60 and suffer from age related hearing loss or Presbycusis as its referred to medically.
This type of hearing loss usually affects both ears, and in most cases, in equal amounts. People’s ability to hear is helped by tiny hair cells inside the inner ear. Their job is to pick up information from waves of sound and to transmit this information into signals for the brain to interpret. Due to the natural process of ageing, commonly from the age of 45 to 50 onwards, the functioning of the hair cells can deteriorate. Age related hearing loss is an irreversible condition which can be managed, rather than cured.
Following a hearing test, you will be presented with a number of options to help overcome your hearing loss. The most common suggestion is a hearing aid, which are available privately or from the NHS. Hearing aids are micro-computers which fit inside or around the wearer’s ear and amplify external sound. They work by capturing sound through a microphone and then converting these sounds to digital signals to be processed through the chip within the device.
A tiny amplifier increases the loudness of the signals and the amplified sound is then delivered into the ear. Another option may be to investigate ALDs (Assistive Listening Devices) which includes daily living aids adopted for the hard of hearing. For example: telephones, mobiles, headphones and alarms offering amplified features. Amplified phones come with extra loud ringer and adjustable speech volume, while alarm clocks come with further sensory clues such as vibration under pillow pads and flashing lights.
The signs of age related hearing loss include diminished sensitivity high frequency sounds, which are particularly important for the perception of speech sounds such as ‘sh’ or ‘s’ or ‘p’ or ‘t.’ Hearing loss can lead to difficulty participating in conversations, particularly within noisy environments. Your GP or local hearing centre will be able to provide an accurate assessment and recommend suitable solutions.
Article by Joan McKechnie, BSc Hons Audiology & Speech Pathology. Joan works for hearing aid company Hearing Direct. For more information on ALDs, visit Hearing Direct's amplified telephone page or consult with your GP or local hearing centre.
(This is a guest article from Hearing Direct)