Imagine you’re celebrating Mother’s Day with your mom and she keeps telling everyone around the dinner table not to mumble. Or maybe she doesn’t hear when your four-year-old asks her to play with him. Maybe she’s been complaining about a bad ringing in her ears. Your mom might have age related hearing loss.
When it comes to their hearing, many older women feel that some hearing loss isn’t their biggest priority. After all, when there are so many other health issues to worry about, being a little hard of hearing can be bearable, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
What is Age Related Hearing Loss?
Also known as presbycusis, age related hearing loss is one of the most common hearing issues. It’s a sensorineural issue, meaning there’s been deterioration of the auditory nerves. It can come from genetic issues but can also be exasperated by loud noise exposure or head trauma. This kind of hearing loss can range from mild to profound, and the damage is usually permanent.
Symptoms of Age Related Hearing Loss
Does your mom:
- Struggle with high pitch sounds?
- Hear ringing in her ears?
- Have a hard time hearing people talking right in front of her, especially when there is background noise?
- Swear people are mumbling or their speech is slurred?
- Especially struggle with women and children’s voices?
Even if these symptoms seem mild to you, they can snowball into big issues down the line.
The Dangers of Age Related Hearing Loss
According to the CDC, the most common cause of injuries and death from injury for older American is falling, and hearing properly is a large aspect in seniors’ ability to safely stand and move. In fact, a landmark John Hopkins study in 2012 found that even mild hearing loss triples the risk of accidental fall. Risk of falling went up by 140% for every 10 decibels of hearing loss.
Dizziness is a serious concern for those with hearing loss, but that’s not the only way hearing loss could cause falling accidents. For instance, if mom doesn’t hear her dog walking up behind her, she could easily trip over him! Being completely aware of her surroundings makes a huge difference in avoiding accidents in the home.
It’s also important to think about very basic safety concerns. Will your mom be able to hear emergency alarms? Will she hear and understand instructions during emergencies?
As your mom’s hearing declines, she might struggle more and more with mental confusion, isolation, and reduced communication. Otologist and epidemiologist Dr. Frank Lin at John Hopkins University studied how dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other cognitive disorders had connections to hearing loss. The study results showed those disorders increased by 20% for every 10 decibels of hearing loss.
“Our results show that hearing loss should not be considered an inconsequential part of aging,” says Lin, “because it may come with some serious long-term consequences to healthy brain functioning.”
Talking to Mom about Hearing Loss and Hearing Aids
Like many gradually developing health issues, early detection can make all the difference when it comes to age related hearing loss. Getting her hearing tested at an audiologist’s office is the first step to understanding your mom’s hearing loss. The hearing test results will show whether or not she needs hearing aids. However, there can be real resistance to getting the hearing test done.
Your mom knows you want the best for her, but it can be really hard for older people to accept that they might have hearing issues. Approaching them about getting their hearing checked needs to be handled sensitively. Think about where and when you want to have the conversation. You might want to pick a location quiet and discreet where there will be no interruptions from the TV or from other people.
You might be coming from a place of concern, but avoid lecturing her about her health. Sharing what you’ve researched on hearing loss can be helpful. Explain to her how even mild hearing loss might be affecting her daily life, and addressing her hearing now can help avoid losing her hearing completely. Just be careful to stick to the big points; throwing too much information at her during your initial talk can be overwhelming.
Another good approach is to focus on the benefits of hearing aids rather than declining health. Emphasize what hearing aids will help with, such as hearing her grandchildren’s laughter and keeping up with her friends’ conversations. You want her to stay independent, after all, and there’s a good chance she wants that, too.
Why not suggest to mom that you both go together to get your hearing tested? This not only takes the focus off her own health issues, but it also shows that a person of any age should get their hearing tested periodically. This makes the appointment less about her getting hearing aids and more about the family staying healthy.
When It’s NOT Age Related Hearing Loss
Something else to keep in mind about getting mom’s hearing tested is her issue might be a different, more easily reversible kind of hearing loss. It could be conductive hearing loss, meaning your mom’s auditory nerves are still healthy but there’s something blocking sound in the outer or middle ear. Often, this means ear wax build-up, which would just need to be cleaned.
And it might not be hearing loss at all. What you thought were hearing problems could actually be hidden cognitive issues like early Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. By ruling out hearing loss through the hearing test, your mom’s doctor can determine the real cause of the issues before they get worse.
Getting Mom Hearing Aids
If it is age related hearing loss, there’s a good chance your mom should get hearing aids. With hearing aids, she won’t have to strain and overexert mentally to focus on conversations. They’ll also help keep her more aware of her surroundings and hold onto her independence as she gets older. And while this kind of hearing loss doesn’t have a cure, hearing aids could help her protect the hearing she has left.
The other barrier that worries seniors about hearing aids is the cost. Hearing aids offered to you after audiologist hearing tests can cost thousands of dollars a pair, and that’s not in most people’s budgets.
If the audiologist hearing aid prices are too expensive for you, MDHearing is here to help. We offer more affordable hearing aid options for adults with mild to moderately severe hearing loss. Just send in your mom’s hearing test results and our in-house audiologist will help her find the right hearing aid for her needs.
MDHearing offers a 45-day risk-free trial on all of our hearing aids to ensure our customers are completely happy with their new hearing aids.