CREDIT: Hard of hearing photo via Shutterstock
"The Healthy Geezer" answers questions about health and aging in his weekly column.
Question: My wife just turned 70 and her hearing isn't what it used to be. Do you have any suggestions that will improve my ability to communicate with her?
Answer: About one in three Americans over 60 suffers from hearing loss, ranging from the inability to hear certain voices to deafness.
Presbycusis, one form of hearing loss, occurs with age. It can be caused by changes in the inner ear, auditory nerve, middle ear, or outer ear. Other causes include exposure to loud noise, heredity, head injury, infection, illness, certain prescription drugs and circulation problems such as high blood pressure.
Tinnitus, common in older people, is characterized by a ringing, hissing or roaring sound in the ears. It's frequently caused by exposure to loud noise or certain medicines. Tinnitus can accompany any type of hearing loss.
A hearing aid can help your wife. While it won't restore normal hearing, it will increase her awareness of sounds and what made them. A hearing aid magnifies sound vibrations. Larger vibrations are converted into signals that are sent to the brain. However, there are limits to the amplification a hearing aid can provide. And if the inner ear is too damaged, even large vibrations will not be converted into signals.
Since your wife's hearing seems to be a problem, she should have it checked by her personal physician. If her hearing has diminished, the doctor will probably refer her to an otolaryngologist or audiologist.
An otolaryngologist is a physician who specializes in treating the ear, nose and throat. An audiologist is a health professional who conducts tests to define hearing loss. Many otolaryngologists have audiologist associates in their offices.
Meanwhile, here are some tips that can help you get your words across to your wife:
If you would like to read more columns, you can order a copy of "How to be a Healthy Geezer" at www.healthygeezer.com.
All rights reserved © 2013 by Fred Cicetti