Hearing Tests for Seniors. What? How Often Are you Getting Your Ears Checked? Eh?

June 6, 2022

Our sensory organs are vital to having a good life. Our ears in particular help us in everyday communication with friends, family, and at any time we are out and about. Enjoying music, an audiobook, wearing earrings or glasses, or even watching a show wouldn’t be possible without our ears.

After our eyes, our ears are our most important sense organs. Sounds are constantly entering our ears, be it through conversations, listening to music, enjoying podcasts, street noises, and so much more. Those who can no longer hear properly are often at a great disadvantage in everyday life.

Do you have difficulty hearing? Well, you are not alone! About one in every three people suffer from some sort of hearing impairment. For those of us over 75, that number increases to about one in every two people.

“Over 1.5 billion people globally live with hearing loss. This number could rise to over 2.5 billion by 2030.” WHO

The World Health Organization considers hearing loss a major problem and has released new guidelines to help combat it in their new Make Listening Safe program.

How Does Hearing Loss Affect the Elderly?

Not only the elderly suffer when their hearing fades. Losing our hearing at any stage of life reduces the quality of our lives. You don’t need to be a senior to require a hearing aid either.

In addition to the expected disadvantages of hearing loss, there is also a connection between our hearing and our health. Hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of brain atrophy. 

Not being able to hear properly also contributes to loneliness, isolation, dependence, and frustration at not being able to communicate.

It’s not surprising that conversation is the first thing we lose when we begin to lose our hearing. Talking is at the lower level of the sound/decibels level. A conversation is about 60 decibels, compared to an ambulance siren which is 120 decibels.

Our Ears Help Us Enjoy Our Life: 

  • Small talk in a restaurant or café
  • Watching TV or at the cinema
  • Listening to music at home or on the road
  • Nature sounds such as birdsong
  • Playing with children
  • Playing music

Hearing Helps Us Communicate with Others:

  • Exchanging with colleagues when we are working on a project
  • Exchanges at town hall meetings
  • During telephone conversations
  • Exchanges with friends

Listening Keeps Us Safe:

  • When cars are approaching
  • Sirens in road traffic
  • In the event of alarm sounds, e.g. from the smoke detector when cooking or baking
  • Hearing calls for help 

“In a study that tracked 639 adults for nearly 12 years, Johns Hopkins expert Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., and his colleagues found that mild hearing loss doubled dementia risk. Moderate loss tripled risk, and people with severe hearing impairment were five times more likely to develop dementia.” Johns Hopkins

How Does Our Hearing Decrease at Age 70?

Hearing loss can occur for a variety of reasons, such as heredity, loud and prolonged noise, disease, or simply aging. There are two main reasons for hearing loss:

Sensorineural hearing loss can occur when there is damage to the inner ear.

Conductive hearing loss occurs because sound cannot reach the inner ear.

As we get older, we do get better in many ways -- of course! However, our inner ears contain nerves to the brain, and the tiny hair cells in our ear simply lose some of their strength -- just like we do as we age.

Age-Related Hearing Loss or Presbycusis comes on slowly over time as we get older. It usually happens in both ears, and we very often don’t realize that we are losing our ability to hear.

“(Losing your hearing) depends largely on your genetic and medical history, as well as your exposure to noise over the years. A firearm enthusiast is at a much higher risk than a gardener, for example. Because of the nature of their work, veterans are at perhaps highest risk for both hearing loss (and tinnitus) as they get older.” healthyhearing.com

What is Normal Hearing for a 70-Year-Old?

On average, people hear frequencies between 20 and 20,000 hertz. The range between 500 and 4,000 hertz is particularly pleasant. Human speech or music, for example, also lies in this range (depending on the volume).

When we are younger, our hearing range is about 20 to 20,000 Hz. Sound vibrations are measured in the frequency they are emitted -- in hertz (HZ). How loud these sounds are is measured in decibels -- dB. The hearing range of older adults is only up to 14,000Hz. (Amplifon)

The World Health Organization designates an adult as hard of hearing if he or she has a permanent hearing loss of at least 26 dB on average in the better hearing ear at the frequencies 500, 1000, 2000, and 4000 Hz.

How Often Should Hearing Tests be Done?

It is generally recommended to have your ears tested once every three years. Usually, your doctor will check your hearing during an annual checkup. Testing can be done more often depending on your job -- for those of us still working. After retirement, you should have your hearing checked every few years.

“Generally, people 60 and older should have a baseline hearing test, and get rechecked every few years. (We say ‘generally’ because medical organizations disagree on exactly when an older adult with no symptoms should have their first hearing test, and how often they should get rechecked.) This is to rule out age-related hearing loss.” (healthyhearing.com)

You also need to have your hearing aids checked regularly, too!

Can I Test My Hearing at Home?

There are a great many ways to care for yourself at home, including favorite home remedies. Testing your hearing is probably best left to your doctor or audiologist. A hearing test is normally painless and easy. There are also many online tests you can take if you are not able to see a professional.

AARP offers a wide array of information and services for Seniors on their website, including a free telephone-based hearing test.

Caring for our eyes, or caring for our heart – just like any other organ – we need to keep our ears healthy. We enjoy eating healthy foods. We stay connected with family and friends. We keep fit and mobile. We also enjoy those moments when we can travel and explore. We need to keep living our best life, every day!

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Senior Living FYI

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