It’s not uncommon these days to see people walking around with earbuds or AirPods in their ears. But for years, there has been a stigma around another kind of ear device: the hearing aid.
Hearing loss is often associated with aging, so most of us who are lucky enough to grow old will face it at some point.
“If you live long enough, you’ll have hearing loss,” says Brian Unwin, M.D., chief of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at Carilion Clinic. “It’s just a consequence of aging and is normal.”
In fact, hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older or elderly adults. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 1 in 3 people in the U.S. between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss.
There are many causes of age-related hearing loss, but most commonly it develops from changes in the inner ear as we age. Certain medical conditions can also play a role. No matter what the cause, the important thing is to not ignore any changes in your hearing.
“The longer a person waits, the harder it is to adapt to hearing amplification,” said Dr. Unwin. “This is why so many people have issues with hearing aids once they get them. Often times, they waited too long.”
Carilion Clinic's Otolaryngology team (ear, nose and throat specialists) includes audiology and neurotology specialists who help children, adults and seniors with hearing loss, whatever the cause.
Many older adults have been concerned about the cosmetic look of hearing aids, but technology has progressed and now many options are almost undetectable.
If you recognize yourself having difficulty hearing, or a loved one's hearing or responsiveness seems to change, get tested. Many people who experience hearing loss can become isolated or begin to experiencing memory loss. Start discussing hearing loss with your loved ones now to prevent any long-term effects later.
“Protect yourself early on,” said Dr. Unwin. “Early adopters will thrive. The longer you wait to address hearing loss the more you or a loved one will suffer.”