There are 2 types ofhearing loss in older people:
- Conductive hearing loss (CHL)
- Sensorineural hearing loss (SHL)
CHL is from problems of the outer or middle ear, such as:
- Ear infection
- A ruptured eardrum
It can also be from buildup on the bones of the middle ear. A hearing aid can treat some types of hearing loss. Other types may need surgery.
SHL is from problems of the:
- Inner ear
- Nerve path to the brain
- Part of the brain that handles sound
Hearing loss from aging (presbycusis) is a common cause of hearing loss. People with it have a hard time hearing high sounds. It starts slowly in both ears. Other causes are from loud noises, medicines, and problems like heart disease. People with SHL usually need hearing aids. A cochlear implantcan help some people. Removing growths can also help hearing loss.
A number of tools can help you hear. These are:
- Hearing aids
- Assistive listening devices
- Cochlear implant
You wear hearing aids in or behind the ear. They make sound louder as it enters your ears. There are 2 main types:
- Analog hearing aids are the most common and least costly. They make sound and background noise louder. Some models have options for many settings.
- Digital hearing aids are more costly. They change sound waves into digital signs. They also make sound louder and background noise quieter.
You can use assistive listening tools with your hearing aids or instead of hearing aids. A low-cost tip is to have the speaker talk into a microphone connected to the listener’s headphones. Other tools can link a listener to the sound system in a TV, radio, stereo, or public place.
Cochlear implants are for people with a lot of hearing loss. A receiver the size of a quarter is placed under the skin behind one ear. It sends sound to the brain. You wear a small microphone behind one ear. You also carry a small speech processor. Cochlear implants are for people with a lot of hearing loss. They bypass damaged parts of the ear with an implant. Parts of the implant are behind the ear and another part is under the skin behind the year. The implant picks up sound, arranges it, converts it into electric impulses, and sends it to the brain.
Tell your friends, family, and the people you work with that you have problems hearing. They can help you. Here are some steps that may help you hear:
- Stand closer to and face-to-face when you speak to people.
- Repeat back what you hear to people speaking to make sure you know what they have said.
- Ask others to restate things instead of repeating them.
- Ask others to speak louder and more clearly.
- Try to lower background noise.
- Sit away from loud noises when you are in public places.
- Work with a trainer to learn how to lip read.
Health and Safety
Talk to your doctor to find out what you can do to reduce your chances of hearing loss. Loud noises can cause harm. Ask about lowering loud noise and wearing earplugs or protectors. Also ask about safety steps you can take when you drive or cross the street. Getting the care you need can help you learn better ways to cope.
American Academy of Audiology
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Age-related hearing loss. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/age-related-hearing-loss. Updated June 29, 2017. Accessed February 5, 2018.
Cochlear implants. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/cochlear-implants. Updated March 6, 2017. Accessed February 5, 2018.
Conductive hearing loss. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Conductive-Hearing-Loss. Accessed February 5, 2018.
Hearing aids. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing-aids. Updated March 6, 2017. Accessed February 5, 2018.
Hearing loss: A common problem for older adults. National Institute on Aging. Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hearing-loss-common-problem-older-adults. Updated May 1, 2017. Accessed February 5, 2018.
Otosclerosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113667/Otosclerosis. Updated November 18, 2016. Accessed February 5, 2018.
Otosclerosis. Massachusetts Eye and Ear website. Available at: https://www.masseyeandear.org/for-patients/patient-guide/patient-education/diseases-and-conditions/otosclerosis. Accessed February 5, 2018.
Stidham KR, Roberson JB Jr. Hearing improvement after middle fossa resection of vestibular schwannoma. Otol Neurotol. 2001 Nov;22(6):917-21.
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115342/Sudden-sensorineural-hearing-loss. Updated August 25, 2017. Accessed February 5, 2018.
Last reviewed January 2018 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 2/18/2014