Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is the loss of hearing that gradually occurs in most of us, as we grow older. It is one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults. Approximately one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. Having trouble hearing can make it hard to understand and follow a doctor’s advice, respond to warnings, and hear phones, doorbells, and smoke alarms. Hearing loss can also make it hard to enjoy talking with family and friends, leading to feelings of isolation.
As we age it is normal to move a little slower, require more time to recharge and for some, sound seems to affect us differently. You probably aren’t making it up that some sounds seem louder than others and more annoying than before. Allot of noise issues, especially hearing loss, can and should be corrected with hearing aids. The first step to making sure you keep your hearing from declining further.
Aging and Sound Changes
If you have ever been in conversation with an older adult and they ask you to please speak up – and then, a very short time later, complain you are talking way too loud and you don’t have to shout, they may be suffering from loudness discomfort.
As you age, structures inside the ear start to change and their functions decline. Your ability to pick up sounds decreases. You may also have problems maintaining your balance as you sit, stand, and walk. Sound sensitivity as we age is most common in individuals with hearing loss, but it can occur without hearing loss. Some become so sensitive to sound they can barely tolerate what many others consider a reasonable level of sound. Hearing aids can alleviate some of this discomfort because their processing is set up to not overload the ear with sound amplification.
Auditory Cortex Study
The auditory cortex is the region of the brain that is responsible for the processing of auditory (sound) information. The primary auditory cortex is located in the temporal lobe. There are additional areas of the human cerebral cortex that are involved in processing sound, in the frontal and parietal lobes. As we get older, the hair cells and nerve fibers in our inner ears deteriorate. Some studies have shown that a reduced blood flow, which is a natural part of aging, causes changes in our ears. It could also be due to prolonged exposure to loud noises or a combination of factors. Once the cells are damaged, they do not recover.
An article published in the Journal of Neuroscience said a study examined the auditory cortex of individuals in their 20s and their 60s and they were different. This might explain, researchers said, why some individuals develop an oversensitivity to sounds.
Noise Filtering Impacted
As you get older you have issues separating background noise from the sounds you are trying to listen to and process. Older adults report problems understanding a conversation with noise around them. Part of the problem is hearing loss, but new studies also show the brain’s ability to filter out background noise changes, as we grow older. One explanation, said researchers suspect, is that the brain synchronizes with the specific rhythms of speech. Researchers have two theories as to what causes the issue. One was that hearing loss leads to a decline in the brain’s ability to filter out the noise and concentrate on a single sound. The other theory is that the brain’s sound processing changes. Sounds that seem the most jarring and distressing would be high-pitched sounds like smoke alarms, but equally disturbing to those with noise sensitivity are the clanging of silverware or pots and pans, clapping and screaming children.
If you have been finding that you are feeling particularly sensitive to sounds that used to not bother you, you may be developing a sound sensitivity. Contact us at Enticare to set up a hearing test. We can help you find the best hearing aids for your needs and lifestyle and get you on the road to healthy hearing and clear communication.