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Published: July 5, 2023

man holding hearing aid

Maybe you first notice something is off when sitting at a crowded table in a loud restaurant, or while watching TV at home or while sitting in a movie theatre. Maybe you often find yourself asking people to repeat themselves, or a partner or friend brings it to your attention. Whatever the situation, hearing loss among older adults is a common problem, and one that can be treated.

Here’s are 6 things you need to know about age-related hearing loss. - whether for yourself or for a loved one.

  1. How common is it?

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) age-related hearing loss, also called presbycusis, is one of the most common conditions affecting adults as we age.

“Approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) ages 18 and over report some trouble hearing, and about one in three people in the U.S. between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss. Nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing,” reports the NIDCD.

Other things to know about age-related hearing loss: seems to run in families; diabetes and high blood pressure can be contributing factors; usually occurs in both ears affecting them equally; and occurs gradually.

  1. Is it preventable?

While age-related hearing loss is not preventable, you can take measures to prevent noise-induced hearing loss starting when you are young.

Avoid or limit your exposure to damaging noise, such as loud music, fireworks, lawn mowers and construction equipment. If you can’t completely avoid the noise, protect your ears with earplugs and protective earmuffs.

  1. Are there other health effects?

The National Institute on Aging says that untreated hearing loss can affect cognitive abilities, including memory and concentration. Other health risks include depression, social isolation, increased risk for falls and difficulty driving safely.

  1. Do I need to see an audiologist?

You can find many online questionnaires. This one is from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. If you answer “yes” to more than two of the following questions the association recommends having your hearing tested by an audiologist.

  • Do you have a problem hearing over the telephone?
  • Do you hear better in one ear than the other when you are on the phone?
  • Do you have trouble understanding when two or more people talk at the same time?
  • Do people complain that you turn the TV volume up too high?
  • Do you have to strain to understand what people say?
  • Do you have trouble hearing in a noisy place?
  • Do you have trouble hearing in restaurants?
  • Do you have dizziness, pain, or ringing in your ears?
  • Do you ask people to repeat what they said?
  • Do family members or coworkers tell you that you are not hearing what they say?
  • Do many people you talk to seem to mumble or not speak clearly?
  • Do you have trouble understanding women and children?
  • Do people get annoyed because you don’t understand what they say?
  1. How is hearing loss treated?

There are many types of assistive devices and an audiologist or hearing aid specialist will determine which one is best for you. To learn more about the wide range of assistive devices available for people with hearing loss visit this NIDCD site.

One fairly new device is over-the-counter hearing aids, available without a prescription in stores and online, for mild to moderate hearing loss in adults. Doctors recommend that you talk with an audiologist to make sure you are a candidate and find out what kind of warranty the OTC device comes with.

  1. How can you help someone with a hearing loss?

Whether in a group gathering or one-on-one, make sure you pick a spot with good lighting and acoustics, away from music and other distractions. Face the person and speak clearly, a little louder but not shouting. Do not hide your mouth, eat, or chew gum while speaking. Try to make sure only one person speaks at a time.

And if you notice the person is getting frustrated – or you are – ask how you can help. Be willing to move to a different location.


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Author Molly Kavanaugh 2020In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.

About Kendal at Oberlin: Kendal is a nonprofit life plan community serving older adults in northeast Ohio. Located about one mile from Oberlin College and Conservatory, and about a 40 minute drive from downtown Cleveland, Kendal offers a vibrant resident-led lifestyle with access to music, art and lifelong learning.