For hearing loss treatment, sooner is better
March 26, 2012
It is a well known fact that hearing loss is the third most common health condition affecting adults over the age of 60, just behind arthritis and hypertension. The process of age-related hearing loss is gradual and progressive. Some experts say it can start as early as in our 40s. This message is especially important to the over 70 million baby-boomers – many of who are healthy and active, but may not realize that their hearing has already started to diminish.
Hearing loss that is age related may not always be preventable. However, waiting too long before getting tested, and if needed, getting fitted with hearing aids, is preventable. And doing it sooner rather than later is a very smart move. One of the first signs of hearing loss is often an inability to hear and understand speech in noisy environments, but communication in all environments is hindered as the condition progresses. A number of factors contribute to hearing loss in adults including age, genetics, noise exposure, medication and chronic disease.
Just like our joints and muscles, the use-it or lose-it principle applies to our hearing. Hearing loss is actually linked to brain atrophy in older adults.
“As hearing ability declines with age, interventions such as hearing aids should be considered not only to improve hearing but to preserve the brain,” said lead researcher Jonathan Peele, Ph.D. in a new research study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Your hearing ability directly affects how the brain processes sounds, including speech – preserving your hearing doesn’t only protect your ears, but also helps your brain perform at its best,” according to Peele.
You don’t actually “hear” a sound until the brain’s hearing centers receive electrical signals from the ear, process those signals and generate some reaction – like getting out of the way of an on-coming car as you cross the street.
Well, not only do the hearing nerves weaken over time, the hearing centers of the brain, under-utilized, also tend to weaken – atrophy – as a result of auditory deprivation. In other words, the hearing centers no longer receive and process as many electrical hearing messages from the ear.
Understanding hearing loss and treatment options, such as hearing aids, can assure you don’t lose it before it is too late. The longer a hearing loss is ignored, the greater effects of deprivation. In other words, if you have a hearing loss, the sooner you begin treatment, including hearing aids, the better the results.
The solution? Keep your hearing nerves fresh and stimulated – don’t deprive them. See a licensed audiologist when you first suspect hearing loss. And, if you’ve suspected (or known) you have hearing loss, move your ears to a hearing professional instead of turning up the TV and radio.
Dr. Daria Stakiw has been practicing in the Vail Valley for seven years and recently opened up her own audiology practice, Rocky Mountain Audiology, at 56 Edwards Village Boulevard, suite 222 in Edwards. Call 970-926-6660 to learn more, or visit http://www.rockymountainaudiology.com.