Hearing Loss in Older Adults
Hearing loss is common in older adults. Yet, many people do not know they have hearing loss because hearing is lost little by little over time. Most older adults do not lose all of their hearing. Some sounds are just harder to hear, such as women's or children's voices. Often the person thinks everyone else is mumbling.
It is important to know if an older adult has hearing loss because it can lead to other problems. Many older adults are embarrassed by hearing loss. They may spend less time with others and feel lonely. They also may feel lonely when they are with others, because it is hard to join the conversation. Hearing loss also can impact safety. For example, it can be harder to hear fire alarms or car horns. It also can be harder to hear advice from doctors or pharmacists.
Someone with hearing loss may...
Reasons for Hearing Loss in Older Adults
Ear drum problems are a main cause of hearing loss in older adults. The problems often start in young adults and continue over many years.
- Workplace noise. People who work near machines or other loud noises are more likely to have hearing loss. Protective ear muffs should be used when working near loud noises to help prevent hearing loss.
- Loud music. Many people also play music loud enough to cause hearing loss when in their cars, at home, or listening on ear buds or headphones. Live music also can cause hearing loss. Lower the volume, and wear ear plugs to concerts to help protect hearing.
Other things may also increase the chances of hearing loss. But these are less likely than loud noises to lead to hearing loss.
- Chronic disease. Older adults who have high blood pressure or diabetes may be more likely to have hearing loss. These diseases can damage nerves and small blood vessels that are needed for hearing.
- Some medications may lead to hearing loss in some people. Talk to a doctor about any changes in hearing after starting a new medication.
How to Treat Hearing Loss in Older Adults
A person with changes in hearing should talk to their doctor. In some cases, hearing loss is caused by too much wax or an ear infection, and can be treated. The type of hearing loss caused by age and hearing damage cannot be fixed. But it can be helped with hearing aids and therapy that teaches a person to listen differently and read lips. Below are tips to improve communication with someone who has hearing loss.
How to Talk to Someone with Hearing Loss
Written By: Laura M. Vitkus, MPH
Care Partner Information ~ Tips for Providing Older Adult Care
Edited by an interprofessional team from the University of Arizona Center on Aging
This project was supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number U1QHP28721, Arizona Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author andshould not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.