Can you say that again, please?
Editor's note: West Linn Adult Community Center volunteer Patti McCoy knows that hearing loss is common among seniors. Read on to learn common symptoms that may signal you need hearing aids.
By age 65, one in three seniors has difficulty hearing. Half of you reading this will have hearing loss by age 75.
Our ears and brain collaborate not just so we can hear, but to decide which sounds are important. Ears also aid balance and provide our brain a lay of the land for spatial perception.
But it might surprise you to know you may have hearing loss and not even yet be aware of it. Hearing loss usually starts subtly and its symptoms can take decades to "speak up," as it progresses slowly over time.
Myron Carpenter, a wood carver at the WLACC, explained he first had his hearing tested decades ago while a teacher and later a principal in eastern Oregon. His results showed he had detectable high frequency hearing loss, precisely where children's voices fall. It would be decades later, into his 70s, that Myron would wear his first hearing aids.
Sensorineural hearing loss happens when delicate cilia hairs in the inner ear become damaged or progressively deteriorate with aging. Age-related hearing loss, the most common, shifts so gradually that we may not realize how much we're missing. As hearing worsens, people subconsciously adjust everyday activities and interactions to cope with hearing difficulties. Over time, we might not notice how gradual hearing loss diminishes our ability to live life to the fullest.
People with hearing loss often wait 7 to 10 years before they recognize that they need hearing assistance. Have you or loved ones uttered any of these statements?
"People are mumbling." "They talk too softly." Restaurants are too loud." "Social gatherings aren't fun anymore." "Conversations and phone calls tires me out." "The radio/TV isn't that loud!" "My balance is off."
"What did you say?"
Restaurants and gatherings are hard places to navigate for people with hearing loss. Ambient noise pollution — clinking dishes, people talking excitedly around the room and background music — make it challenging to follow talk at your own table.
The stress of straining to hear what others are saying is exhausting and takes its toll on your wellness. Telephone, especially cell phone, transmission isn't perfect. Without context many people with hearing loss cannot fill in the gaps. You may unconsciously avoid phone calls.
Watching TV with the volume turned high is a sign of hearing loss. If you think the volume is fine but family and friends complain the TV or car radio volume is too loud, you're experiencing a well-known sign of hearing loss.
Loss of balance is a sign of hearing loss. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that even mild hearing loss tripled the risk of an accidental fall.
According to the International Journal of Audiology, about 80% of people age 55-74 who could benefit from hearing aids don't use them. Certainly, it is difficult to accept hearing loss, but leaving it untreated will affect your quality of life. Don't opt out of engaging with people. Self-imposed isolation due to hearing loss can lead to anxiety, depression, even dementia. Fortunately, age-related hearing loss can be treated successfully with hearing amplification devices, hearing aids or imbedded devices such as cochlear implants, depending on age and severity of
And while you're at it, share some sound advice with your younger loved ones! The louder the noise and the longer they are exposed to it, the bigger and faster the risk of hearing damage. Advise them to protect their ears with earplugs, ear cup headphones or other ear protection, and get away from noise as quickly and as often as possible. The World Health Organization says the single biggest cause of preventable hearing loss is loud music. The National Institutes of Health succinctly says, "noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable." Yet people of all ages use earphones or earbuds, and attend loud concerts and sporting events. A smartphone with earbuds may be convenient, but at high volumes, it carries the risk of hearing loss. Many smartphones offer up a warning message that cautions you, your children and grandchildren when the volume is too high. Show them you love them by telling them not to ignore this warning. And, show them your hearing aids.
The lunch menu at the West Linn Adult Community Center this week features taco casserole, chips and salsa, peppers and onions and banana pudding on Friday, June 21; chicken Alfredo with penne pasta, zucchini and strawberry cream pie on Monday, June 24 and chicken orzo soup, chicken salad sandwiches and carrot cake on Wednesday, June 26. Cost is $5 per person; lunch is served at noon.
The WLACC is located at 1180 Rosemont Road in West Linn. Call 503-557-4704 for more information.
Patti McCoy, a West Linn resident for 33 years, has been involved at the WLACC for 10 years. She lovingly appreciates her father's choice to get hearing aids seven years ago.
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