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Hearing Loss Is No Longer Something Senior Citizens Have To Live With

It’s World Hearing Day today.

03/03/2017 2:57 PM IST | Updated 03/03/2017 3:10 PM IST
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Neelesh Sahny, a 65-year old retired school teacher had a recent history of angina for which he was taking medication as prescribed. His vision has been deteriorating and he wears bifocals. One day, he complained of noises in his ears (tinnitus) that were disturbing him. He consulted an ENT specialist and complained of the increasing difficulty that he was facing in hearing and understanding speech. A hearing test conducted by an audiologist confirmed sensorineural hearing loss and Mr Sahny was diagnosed with presbycusis, a mid-to-high frequency sensorineural (inner ear) hearing loss in one or usually both ears caused by the natural aging of the human body.

The audiologist prescribed a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid for the right ear.

Now he says his life is back on track again as he no longer feels lost in the midst of conversations with family and friends. His growing feeling of alienation even in groups and during family gatherings, which was leading him to depression earlier, has now completely disappeared. He thanks his wife for insisting on a hearing checkup (audiometric testing)—a timely solution to his age-related hearing loss has made his life good again.

Fortunately, most cases of sensorineural hearing loss can be abridged with the use of revolutionary hearing assistive technology.

An extremely common ageing process, hearing impairment is a progressive and irreversible bilateral symmetrical age-related sensorineural hearing loss resulting from degeneration of the cochlea or associated structures of the inner ear or auditory nerves.

Hearing loss is most marked at higher frequencies and is the most commonly occurring sensory deficit, affecting more than 250 million people globally. Typically, the hearing slowly deteriorates thus patients have more difficulty understanding rapidly spoken words, unfamiliar vocabulary, and speech in a noisy, distracting environment. Individuals may find it difficult to use the telephone and lose the directionality of sound. Presbycusis or age-related hearing loss can cause buzzing or ringing sounds in the ear (tinnitus) and be quite taxing, also affecting speech in extreme cases.

Like most types of sensorineural hearing loss, there is no cure for presbycusis. Fortunately, most cases of sensorineural hearing loss can be abridged with the use of revolutionary hearing assistive technology.

A scientific review of surveys shows that the use of hearing aids causes significant improvement in the quality of life of hearing impaired people. Most people over the age of 60 develop a certain amount of hearing loss. The severity can be in varying degrees and patterns. In such times, hearing aids and other related equipment truly seem to help making a big difference to the quality of life. In cases where simple medical devices may not be able to resolve these issues, there is also the option of cochlear and middle ear implants.

Bridging hearing loss

Hearing loss is no longer something to lose your sanity over. With cutting edge technology, there is an assortment of choices to overcome the ordeal.

Hearing aids: Those with mild to moderate hearing loss may benefit from wearing hearing aids. After a thorough hearing evaluation, an audiologist will recommend the type and style of hearing aid according to the severity of your hearing loss, preferences and budget.

Cochlear implants: People diagnosed with severe hearing loss may benefit from using a cochlear implant. These medical devices are surgically implanted behind your ear to help detect sound and understand speech.

Assistive listening devices (ALD): ALDs can be used with or without hearing aids, depending on the type and severity of your hearing loss. They are usually used to enhance the audibility of a device in a closed room like sound systems and televisions.

Different patients have different needs and they need to be treated differently on a case to case basis. They need to visit an audiologist for proper evaluation that requires audiometric tests and also speech discrimination testing in both unaided and aided conditions to get exact the perfect hearing aid. The combined effort an ENT doctor and an Audiologist help the patient chose the best modality of treatment.

There's a lot of work happing across the globe to understand and tackle this disorder. Meanwhile, appropriately selected technology can really contribute to the rehabilitation of a patient with presbycusis.

Technological advancements augment innovative treatments and allow patients live longer, healthier and more productive lives. In the case of presbycusis this is being amply and very ably demonstrated.

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