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Hearing Loss and the Aging Process.

Hearing loss caused by the aging process is called presbicusis. It lumps several different issues together, but does not include noise damage. As we age our brain does not accept information and act on this information as readily as it did at a younger age.

As we age the actual membrane of the eardrum may thicken and make it more difficult for sounds to pass through. Our old friend arthritis can cause deterioration of the occicular chain (the bones in the middle ear) to the point where they may break and require surgery.

Some seniors may be troubled with lots of ear wax. It is best to have an otoscopic review of the ear canal before testing for hearing loss. Presbicusis can cause mild noise induced loss created at a younger age to seemingly suddenly erupt into real problems in understanding other’s speech. You may be able to hear people speaking, but not be able to understand them.

You may be able to understand conversation in a quiet room, close to the speaker, but not at the kitchen table with 5 or 6 other family members around. These, and other issues with presbicusis, are treatable, but first you need a hearing test.

Most hearing specialists and audiologists will give you a free screening and exam to determine cause and prognosis of your hearing loss. This should be done every two years after the age of 50.

Reg McCutcheon is board certified in Hearing Instrument Sciences and has been at Hearing Instrument Specialists in Hamilton for 25 years.