• Printer Friendly Version
  • Decrease Text Size
  • Increase Text Size
  • PDF

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Hearing Loss Signs ... and Solutions

Posted By: Advancing Care

By Katrina Stidham, MD
Section Chief, Neurotology
Westchester Medical Center

Many people experience some degree of hearing loss as they get older. A third of people over 65 have hearing loss, and by the age of 75 the frequency increases 50 percent.

There are many variables that affect the degree of hearing loss an individual has as they age including genetics, prior history of noise exposure and even some other health problems.  

Hearing loss has many negative effects on an individual’s well-being and quality of life. People with hearing loss often miss parts of conversation. Missing communications has a significant impact on ability to socialize with family and friends and can also be a safety issue.  

A good example of the latter is understanding medical instructions from a doctor’s office. If a person cannot hear instructions clearly, they may not follow the treatment plan safely. Over time, many people with hearing loss will tend to withdraw from social situations because it becomes too difficult to understand and follow the conversation.

It is not enjoyable to go to lunch with friends when you can no longer follow the banter. Over time, untreated hearing loss often leads to isolation and depression. In recent years, research has also linked dementia and cognitive decline to untreated hearing loss.

Often, an individual cannot prevent progression of hearing loss, but there are things that can be done to improve hearing health!

First, be aware of signs of hearing loss:

  • Frequently asking people to repeat what they have said
  • Increased difficulty hearing in a restaurant that was not a problem in the past
  • Turning the TV volume up to a level that others complain is too loud
  • Feeling left out of a conversation
  • Difficulty hearing on the phone
  • Ringing (tinnitus) in ears

Second, go have a hearing test (audiogram) completed by an audiologist and have an exam with an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor. Completing a hearing test will allow you to know exactly what your hearing levels are and allow you to explore options for intervention. An ENT doctor (otolaryngologist) can give you a thorough exam of your ears, make certain you do not have any treatable issues such as wax or middle ear fluid that might be affecting your hearing.

Some people also have other problems with their ears that may be improved with surgery that the doctor can discuss with you. Most people with hearing loss from aging are best helped with hearing aids. For people with severe hearing loss, a cochlear implant may also be considered.

Until recently, access to cochlear implant technology has been limited for older adults as the criteria for receiving a cochlear implant was more restrictive for Medicare individuals than for any other population. Last year, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approved expanded coverage for cochlear implants under Medicare.

Third, take the next steps to do something about your hearing loss! This often seems like the hardest part and many people are reluctant to consider getting a hearing aid to help with their hearing loss.

The good news is that hearing aid technology has improved dramatically over the last 10 years. The hearing aids we have today are quite different from the old hearing aids that most people think about. They are comfortable, cosmetic and work very well to improve hearing in multiple situations. They also have Bluetooth technology which makes talking on the phone much easier. Many people find that adjusting to hearing aids is much easier than they thought once they try them.

The benefits of addressing hearing loss are many and include improved communication, socialization, safety and well-being. Treating hearing loss has also been shown to decrease overall risk of dementia.

If you think you may have hearing loss, don’t ignore it. Get your hearing checked out and start exploring options to improve your hearing health now.

If you would like to learn more about hearing options offered at WMCHealth and explore whether a cochlear implant may be an option for you or a loved one, please contact us! We can be reached at 914.493.4634 and WestchesterMedicalCenter.org/Cochlear-Implant-Center.