Hearing loss in the elderly

Hearing loss in the elderly

Hearing loss in the elderly is an incredibly debilitating and isolating condition and it often goes undiagnosed for years. It affects more people than you would expect – 71% of over 70 year-olds and 42% of over 50 year-olds.

Most people who experience hearing loss as they get older do so due to a condition called presbyacusis, caused by wear and tear to the tiny hair cells in our inner ear.

Causes of hearing loss

There are lots of potential causes of hearing loss, which include:

  • noise exposure
  • infections caused by viruses – such as mumps, measles or rubella
  • genetics
  • certain medications that are toxic to the ear
  • other conditions such as non-cancerous growths that affect the auditory nerve or Meniere’s disease
  • build-up of earwax which can block ear canals and reduce hearing

Only about a third of people who could be helped by a hearing aid actually have one. So the first step is to persuade your parent to have a hearing test (and to have one regularly once their hearing has started to deteriorate). They can get a hearing test at their GP surgery (or at home if they are unable to get to the GP), and if necessary they will then be referred to an NHS audiology department or possibly to an Ear Nose Throat (ENT) clinic for further tests and any hearing aids they may need.

The NHS website has lots of useful information on this topic.

If you have experience of helping your parent with hearing loss or would like to see what others are talking about, join the Age Space Forum.