In today’s busy society more and more communication demands fall in the hands of women over forty. There are kids off to college, young grandchildren coming for visits, social calendars to tend to and often parents to take care of as one enters the world of the “sandwich generation”.
But what happens when the beginning effects of hearing loss start making communication with those around us more of a challenge when we need it the most? Gradual hearing loss, in the form of either presbycusis (age-related) or otoschlerosis (a congenital and often female-dominated disorder of the middle ear bones) can start to become apparent to women in their mid-to-late forties or fifties. Hereditary factors and prescriptive forms of medications, such as some chemotherapy agents, can also be attributed to the early on-set of hearing loss.
Of the diagnosed hearing losses in the United States, 10% of pathologies can be remedied with surgical or medical options, however the other 90% of hearing losses are sensorineural, or nerve-related, in nature. The most common and most effective treatment option for nerve-related hearing loss is hearing aids.
Because the onset of hearing loss is typically a slow, gradual decline in sensitivity, active women may not realize more and more listening situations may be harder to understand as each year passes. Often in aural rehabilitative counseling sessions with an Audiologist, the patient with hearing loss realizes that people aren’t actually mumbling. Instead, the inability to hear certain frequencies or pitches of people’s voices makes the clarity of words diminish. Frustration with hearing loss can build and lead to resentment or even regression from family members or co-workers.
National statistics show that on average it takes an individual 5-7 years from the onset of hearing loss before one seeks treatment for the loss. One stark realization is the fact that our inner ear hearing nerves, or hair cells, work on a “use it or loose it” philosophy, like most nerves in our body. If you are not stimulating those small hair cells, they forget how to fire the proper sound or signal up to the brain and the brain can forget how to use certain sound information if deprived for too many years.
With over 32 million Americans diagnosed with hearing loss, it is no surprise that people are getting baseline screenings and becoming more aware of the importance of good hearing in their day-to-day communication. Furthermore, advanced hearing solutions are making hearing aids no longer a burden but a great enhancement to active lifestyles. With options such as Bluetooth wireless capability and extended wear devices that are 100% invisible, there are even more reasons to stay active with communication and avoid frustration with social and work situations.
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