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Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery

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Resisting Help to Restoring Your Hearing

Many people do not want to admit they have trouble hearing. Older adults who don’t hear well may become depressed or withdraw from others to avoid feeling frustrated or embarrassed about not understanding what is being said. Often older people may become confused, unresponsive, or uncooperative just because they don't hear well.

Hearing problems that are ignored or untreated can get worse. If you have a hearing problem, you should see your doctor and learn about the options available to you. These may include:

  • Hearing aids
  • Special training
  • Certain medicines
  • Surgery

Hearing loss in adults

One form of hearing loss, presbycusis, comes on gradually as a person ages. Presbycusis can occur because of changes in the inner ear, auditory nerve, middle ear, or outer ear. Causes may include:

  • Aging
  • Loud noise
  • Heredity
  • Head injury
  • Infection
  • Illness
  • Certain prescription drugs
  • Circulation problems such as high blood pressure

Presbycusis commonly affects people over 50, many of whom are likely to lose some hearing each year. Having presbycusis may make it hard for a person to tolerate loud sounds or to hear what others are saying.

What should I do if I suspect someone I love has hearing loss?

It is never easy to confront a problem with someone you love, particularly if the person is older than you, or is not used to taking your advice, like a parent. Here are some helpful hints for managing this kind of problem:

  • Begin a dialogue and encourage your loved one to talk about the problem. You can start the conversation by saying, "I’ve noticed that when we talk in person, or over the telephone, you don’t always understand what I say, or you ask me to repeat myself."
  • Bring some relevant literature with you, like the quiz on hearing loss. Ask your loved one to go over the quiz with you, or leave it for them to do alone later. They may be shy to confront the problem with you, and may need some time to adjust to the idea that other people have noticed they have trouble hearing.
  • Encourage your loved one to talk to their doctor, of if you accompany them to their medical appointments, ask the doctor directly about hearing loss.
  • Remember to be patient. People are often embarrassed or discouraged by hearing loss. They don’t want to have to wear a big, clunky device on their ear. They don’t want other people to know they may be suffering from hearing loss. Let them know that recent advances have improved hearing technologies, and that they may be able to pick a hearing aid in a size or style that will remain inconspicuous.