Dr Sonia's ENT

ENT Specialist, Head & Neck Surgeon,Bangalore
Dr Sonia Suprabha Venugopal

ENT Health Articles

Age and Hearing loss - Hearing loss in the Elderly

Posted on June 21, 2010 at 6:41 PM

By Dr Sonia Suprabha Venugopal, ENT Specialist Bangalore

Deafness and the Elderly

Hearing loss among the elderly is a widespread problem often compounded by feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression, and many hearing-impaired persons withdraw from society.

 The first step in overcoming a hearing impairment is learning to accept a handicap and taking steps to overcome it.

All senses decline with age and the most common cause of Hearing loss in the elderly is presbyacusis due to the  normal wear and tear of the hearing nerves.Circumstances that can accelerate this process include

  • genetic factors
  • metabolic factors
  • exposure to noise
  • medications damaging to the hearing nerve
  • diseases of the inner ear.

The most important part of treatment is prevention, slowing down the aging process by avoiding noise and medications toxic to the ears[Ototoxic drugs]


The first symptoms of hearing loss usually start around age 50.

Sound may be confused in noisy environments

People often complain they can hear but can't understand

 A person may also notice noise or ringing in the ears.

 At this stage, many people don't realize they have a hearing loss because only high-frequencies of sound are affected, and a person may hear well in a quiet environment.

When a hearing impairment begins interfering with a person's normal activities, several rehabilitative measures are available to help.

  • Hearing aids are one solution.
  • Family and coworkers can learn to communicate with a hearing- impaired person by speaking distinctly and not competing with background noise.
  • Victims of a hearing loss can also sharpen their skills at reading facial expressions and gestures.
  • In addition, several assistive-listening devices are available to help the hearing impaired. These include closed-captioned televisions and amplifiers for televisions and telephones; lights and vibrators to replace doorbells, alarm clocks and telephone ringers.

Hearing loss among the elderly is usually equal in both ears.

If the loss is more severe in one ear than the other, or if there is more noise in one ear, the hearing loss may be caused by something other than aging[eg Tumours]. In this case, a thorough evaluation by an ENT specialist is needed.


Effects of Hearing loss in the Elderly

One in three people older than 60 and half of those older than 85 have hearing loss.

Hearing problems can make it hard to understand and follow a doctor’s advice, to respond to warnings, and to hear doorbells and alarms. They can also make it hard to enjoy talking with friends and family. All of this can be frustrating, embarrassing, and even dangerous.It can lead to social isolation, loneliness and depression.


Hence ,Hearing problems are serious. The most important thing to do if you think you have a hearing problem is to go see ENT Specialist who will assess your hearing loss and may refer you to an audiologist for specialized workup.Sometimes otolaryngologists and audiologists work together to find the treatment that is right for you.

Why am I losing my hearing?

Hearing loss happens for many reasons. Some people lose their hearing slowly as they age. This condition is known as presbycusis Doctors do not know why presbycusis happens, but it seems to run in families.

Another reason for hearing loss may be exposure to too much loud noise. This condition is known as noise-induced hearing loss. Many construction workers, farmers, musicians, airport workers, tree cutters, and people in the armed forces have hearing problems because of too much exposure to loud noise. Sometimes loud noise can cause a ringing, hissing, or roaring sound in the ears, called tinnitus

Hearing loss can also be caused by a virus or bacteria, heart conditions or stroke, head injuries, tumors, and certain medicines.

What treatments and devices can help?

Your treatment will depend on your hearing problem, so some treatments will vary: The most common ones:

o Medical Treatment

o Surgical Treatment

o Hearing Devices

Hearing aids are tiny instruments you wear in or behind your ear. They make sounds louder. Things sound different when you wear a hearing aid, but an audiologist can help you get used to it.

To find the hearing aid that works best for you, you may have to try more than one. Ask your audiologist whether you can have a trial period with a few different hearing aids. You and your audiologist can work together until you are comfortable.

Personal listening systems help you hear what you want to hear while eliminating or lowering other noises around you. Some, called auditory training systems and loop systems, make it easier for you to hear someone in a crowded room or group setting. Others, such as FM systems and personal amplifiers, are better for one-on-one conversations.

TV listening systems help you listen to the television or the radio without being bothered by other noises around you. These systems can be used with or without hearing aids and do not require you to use a very high volume.

Direct audio input hearing aids are hearing aids that can be plugged into TVs, stereos, microphones, auditory trainers, and personal FM systems to help you hear better.

Telephone amplifying devices. Some telephones are made to work with certain hearing aids. If your hearing aid has a "T" switch, you can ask your telephone company about getting a phone with an amplifying coil (T-coil). If your hearing aid is in the "T" position, this coil is activated when you pick up the phone. It allows you to listen at a comfortable volume and helps lessen background noise. You can also buy a special type of telephone receiver and other devices to make sounds louder on the phone.

Mobile phone amplifying devices. To help people who use a T-coil hear better on mobile phones, an amplifying device called a loopset is available. The wire loop goes around your neck and connects to the mobile phone. The loop transmits speech from the phone to the hearing aid in your ear. It also helps get rid of background noise to make it easier to talk in a noisy environment.

Auditorium-type assistive listening systems. Many auditoriums, movie theaters, churches, synagogues, and other public places are equipped with special sound systems for people with hearing loss. These systems send sounds directly to your ears to help you hear better. Some can be used with a hearing aid and others without.

Lip reading or speech reading is another option. People who do this pay close attention to others when they talk. They watch how the mouth and the body move when someone is talking. Special trainers can help you learn how to lip read or speech read.


Dr Sonia Suprabha Venugopal


Consultant ENT & Head & Neck Surgery

Location: BANGALORE:Sadashivnagar,Sahakaranagar,RT Nagar,Hebbal




ENT Specialist Bangalore

Categories: Ear