When is the right time to get a hearing aid?

Hearing loss is a problem that affects many people at different stages of life. Children often suffer from hearing loss which is due to fluid in the ears. This is usually self-limiting process, and may often be improved with medical therapy and placement of tubes. As we grow older, however, hearing loss may be due to wear-and-tear condition of the ears. It is believed that the hair cells of the inside of the ear responsible for hearing threshold are no longer performing an adequate job as we get older. Most people lose the higher frequencies first, and only later they lose their lower frequencies as well. The process is usually gradual, and happens over many years and decades. In some people, they might be a genetic predisposition for the hearing loss to happen sooner and also faster. Some others might have hearing loss associated with excessive noise exposure. Some others may just be unfortunately unlucky to have a significant amount of age-related hearing loss.

The diagnosis of age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, can be made by your ENT specialist. Usually, an audiogram is performed, and typical pattern of loss is detected. Once this is detected, unfortunately there is no medical therapy or surgery to reverse the process. Amplification in the form of hearing aids is the only remedy for most patients.

There is no specific time or threshold at which hearing aid becomes mandatory. As our hearing declines, patients often find themselves in the situation having communication problems with their loved ones. This situation is usually worse in the noisy environment when there are too many noises competing for patient’s remaining hearing nerves. Once the patient find themselves in a situation of asking people to repeat themselves or finds it unbearable to be in the loud situations, it is not to consider getting a hearing aid.

Of course getting a hearing aid is never mandatory. If your hearing is deteriorated, and the patient does not wish to wear a hearing aid, it is well within their spectrum of options to do nothing at all. However, more recent research has shown there is a high correlation between the degree of untreated hearing loss and eventual onset of the dementia. Many scientists now believe that the lack of adequate signal going from the ear to the brain will eventually resolve in shrinkage of the brain volume due to lack of stimulation. This often leads to memory loss. Also, lack of appropriate level of communication with the surrounding will also lead to relative isolation. This can also further exacerbate the rate of dementia in certain people.

A consultation with your ENT doctor is the best first step in determining the degree of loss, and if a hearing aid would be recommended. Most ENT doctors can perform this for you within their own offices.

Posted in: Ears

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