What happens to our ears with time?

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People lose their hearing when they age because of age-related changes in the entire auditory system from the outer ear, through the inner ear and sometimes within the brain itself. Hearing loss due to the aging process is called presbycusis.

In most cases, hearing loss is slowly progressive, typically affects both ears and may have an adverse effect on the individual’s ability to understand speech. The typical complaint of older adults with “classic presbycusis” is that they can hear people talking, but they cannot make out the words.

How common is age-related hearing loss?

If you have age-related hearing loss, you are not alone. Age-related hearing loss is thought to be the most common sensory impairment in older adults. The process can begin as early as young adulthood, but usually does not become noticeable until the fifth decade of life.  In New Zealand one person in seven is thought to have a hearing loss of significance.

What are the consequences of untreated hearing loss in older persons?

Persons with untreated hearing loss are more likely to experience depression and anxiety compared to those who wear hearing aids.  People with dementia and hearing loss will function more poorly without hearing help.

Untreated hearing loss may have serious emotional and social consequences for adults. The person is isolated from family members and friends, has limited social activities and these factors reduce their sense of well-being.