One in three adults over the age of 65 will experience hearing loss. Some may experience hearing loss even earlier and not notice the signs, and those signs may differ between men and women. There’s an opportunity to learn how men’s hearing loss is unique, how to diagnose it, and how to treat it.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, men are twice as likely as women to suffer from hearing loss but are less likely to seek treatment. Men are also less likely to discuss their hearing loss.
Hearing loss often begins with a loss of clarity (not volume). Words can sound mumbled or slurred, and sounds like “s”, “f”, and “th” can be indistinguishable from one another. The reason for this loss of clarity is that high-frequency sounds are the first to decline, leaving the low frequency (volume) intact. Other signs of hearing loss include ringing in the ears, certain sounds becoming annoying, and background noise making focusing on conversations difficult.
Due to the gradual onset of hearing loss, individuals are often not aware they have experienced a change in hearing. They may comment that their wife or grandchildren, both of whom have a higher pitched voice, are not speaking clearly or too quickly. Other signs that there has been a change in hearing are increased volume on the TV, mishearing or feeling left out of conversations, or avoiding social situations due to increased difficult hearing. These are just some of the signs of hearing loss.
Noise-induced or age-related hearing loss is not a reversible condition, so prevention is critical. Avoid loud noises and wear ear protection when using loud tools like leaf blowers or lawn mowers. Shooting sports enthusiasts should always wear properly fitted hearing protection. And if you have a sudden, unexplained loss of hearing, go to your primary caregiver as soon as possible as prompt treatment increases the likelihood of recovery.
I recommend that at age 55, men should begin seeing an audiologist and even earlier if they are experiencing signs of hearing loss or have an occupation or hobbies that expose them to loud noises or music. An audiologist can examine the ear for damage and do an audiogram that tests the ability to hear a range of sounds in each ear.
The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. It is strongly recommended to see an audiologist first to discuss if traditional hearing aids or an OTC (over-the counter) are the best fit for your hearing loss. Advances in technology have made assisted hearing more accessible and unobtrusive. Smartphones have many hearing-related settings, and modern hearing aids integrate with smartphones to allow quick adjustments from one environment to the next.
The good news is that hearing loss can be prevented and treated. Men are especially vulnerable to hearing loss at a younger age and may suffer more from the isolation that can occur by not being able to participate in conversations. If you’ve noticed a difference in your hearing or experienced any of the symptoms mentioned above, visit mountnittany.org/audiology to have your hearing checked. We look forward to having you back in the conversation!