Hearing Difficulties Increase for Adults 45 and Older

Turn up the radio. Maybe you love the song, or perhaps you just can't hear as well as you used to years ago. Hearing is one of many examples of how our health declines as we age. Being prepared for aging is vital to retirement planning.

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Hearing Difficulties Increase for Adults 45 and Older
2 Min Read July 26th, 2022

You walk into a room and hear the TV blasting. Sure, some people love the surround sound and blast the volume. Other people had had their stereos on too loud when they were young and now suffer from hearing loss.

The National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey showed that 16.7% of men surveyed and 10.6% of women aged 45–64 had some difficulty hearing even when using a hearing aid.

The older you are, the more likely you will have some hearing loss. For men aged 65 and older, 30.9% of men and 23.5% of women reported hearing problems.

Hearing Loss Leads to Functional Problems

Hearing difficulty is related to other functional problems, such as communication. The CDC reports that hearing loss can limit participation in various activities, including employment, education, and civic activities. While hearing loss can occur at any age, it increases with age.

Problems with hearing can complicate aging since it has been shown that hearing loss is associated with cognitive and functional decline in older adults. This decline increases the need for help with daily living activities and supervision for those with dementia. 

The CDC says that hearing difficulty can significantly impact a person's ability to fully participate in society and can adversely affect their quality of life. Advancements in hearing aid technology have improved hearing ability, but hearing difficulties remain even when hearing aids are used.

Men Aged 45+ More Likely Than Women to Use Hearing Aids

More men aged 45 and older use hearing aids compared to their female counterparts. The survey showed that 7.1% of the population aged 45+ used a hearing aid: 8.9% of men and 5.4% of women.

Among adults aged 65 and over, 19.2% of men and 10.6% of women used a hearing aid. 

Hearing loss usually progresses gradually. Many people won't notice it, and their loved ones will often be the first to take note. John Hopkins Medicine says that the common signs of hearing loss are difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds or understanding conversations over background noise. People will find some sounds too loud or hear ringing in one or both ears (tinnitus).

A research study in 2013 showed that, on average, older adults with hearing loss developed a significant impairment in their cognitive abilities 3.2 years sooner than those with normal hearing.

"Our results show that hearing loss should not be considered an inconsequential part of aging, because it may come with some serious long-term consequences to healthy brain functioning."

Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the university's Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Lin estimates that as many as 27 million Americans over 50, including two-thirds of men and women aged 70 years and older, suffer from hearing loss. He says that only 15% of those who need a hearing aid get one, leaving much of the problem and its consequences untreated.

The impact of untreated hearing loss in adults over age 59 cannot be ignored; families should encourage loved ones to seek medical evaluation. Some hearing loss could be caused by a build-up of ear wax. Removing ear wax by your doctor can improve hearing dramatically for some people.

There are other consequences of hearing loss for older adults. These individuals may not hear instructions from their doctor or caregiver, causing unwanted consequences.  

Remember that the onset of hearing loss can happen quickly over a very short period of days. It also can happen over a few months. Hearing loss is usually slowly progressive, with a gradual decrease in hearing over a few years. 

If you or a loved one suffers sudden hearing loss, it would be considered a medical emergency, and seek immediate medical attention.

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About the Author

Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.

LTC News Contributor Linda Maxwell

Linda Maxwell

Contributor since December 11th, 2017

Editor's Note

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