How Hearing Loss Impacts in Older Adults

How Hearing Loss Impacts in Older Adults

Have You Ever Thought About How Hearing Loss Impacts in Older Adults?

Hearing Loss ImpactsMore than 33 percent of older Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss. And 50 percent of those 75 and up suffer from some level of deafness, according to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communications Disorders (NIDCD).

Sadly, most hearing loss goes untreated.

Six of 10 people with moderate-to-severe hearing loss do not use hearing aids, says James Firman, president of the National Council on Aging and founder of the United Seniors Health Cooperative (USHC), a nonprofit consumer organization. “I can guarantee you, as a person with a moderate to severe loss, that there is no way that you are doing fine and getting along fine if that hearing loss is not treated,” he explains.

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But what exactly are the effects of hearing loss on older adults?

  • Hearing Loss Impacts 2Hearing loss can impact personal relationships, physical health, and a person’s overall quality of life.
  • Hearing Loss Can Lead to Lower Quality Relationships

A number of studies have shown that hearing loss can negatively impact personal relationships. Older adults with hearing loss may withdraw from conversations because they can’t understand what is being said, or they might talk more to compensate for their inability to hear. It can cause them to monopolize conversations without truly interacting with others.

In one study of 4,000 people with hearing difficulties, those who didn’t wear hearing aids were “more likely to be viewed as being confused, disoriented, non-caring, arrogant, [and] inattentive” by family members and loved ones.

  • Additionally, the same study discovered that “interpersonal warmth in relationships significantly declined as hearing loss worsened.”

hearing-loss-impacts 3While these side effects may not directly affect an older adult’s independence, they can lead to depression. We now know depression can worsen other illnesses or even lead to new problems, such as heart disease and high blood pressure.

Ultimately, these illnesses can reduce a person’s ability to live independently.

  • Hearing Loss Can Put Older Adults in Danger

But it’s not just an older adult’s mental well-being that can suffer. Seniors with untreated hearing loss can put themselves in physical danger if they:

  • Fail to hear a doctor’s instructions properly and don’t take the right dose of prescription medicine
  • Can’t hear a smoke detector go off
  • Don’t hear someone knocking at the door or even hear an intruder in the house at night
  • Are driving and don’t hear another driver honk the horn
  • Are walking and fail to take note of oncoming traffic

How Hearing Loss Affects Quality of Life

An older adult who can’t be trusted to take the correct medicine, cannot drive safely, or finds it hard to socialize with groups of people risks a lower quality of life and loss of independence.

Hearing loss can create a cascading effect that leads to other health issues but, even on its own, it puts seniors at risk in their own homes and while traveling.

Fortunately, in many cases the use of a hearing aid can restore the quality of life and the ability to live independently.

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Noise Hazard Alert

Noise Hazard Alert



Noise Hazard Alert Information

Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common work-related illnesses in the United States. Each year approximately 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to noise loud enough to damage their hearing.

Through the appropriate use of personal protective equipment such as hearing protection, separating workers from noisy equipment or processes as much as possible and by implementing “buy quiet” programs, employers can reduce the risk of hearing loss for workers.

As part of the effort to raise awareness of noise hazards and steps contractors can take to protect their employees from job-related noise induced hearing loss, the OSHA-NIOSH-CPWR r2p Working Group developed a new series of infographics. These infographics aim to raise awareness of the risk, offer steps to prevent hearing loss and raise awareness about NIOSH’s Buy Quiet resources. Built off of the NIOSH Buy Quiet video and data in the Center for Construction Research and Training’s (CPWR) Construction Chart Book, the infographics reinforce the message that hearing loss can be prevented.

CPWR offers for public download both a noise hazard alert and a toolbox talk on noise hazards, (and you can order the hazard alert in printed brochure format at no charge).

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What Is Causing My Ears To Ring?

What Is Causing My Ears To Ring?

Do You Know What Causes Your Ears To Ring? Read on…

tinnitus-hearing-loss1Tinnitus (pronounced tih-NITE-us or TIN-ih-tus) is the name for hearing a sound that is not physically present in the environment. Some researchers have also described tinnitus as a “phantom auditory perception.” People with tinnitus most often describe it as ringing, buzzing, cricket sounds, humming, and whooshing, although many other descriptions have been used. To hear some sound samples access the American Tinnitus Association website, where they have put together files of different manifestations of tinnitus to listen to for education purposes.

Tinnitus is quite common; as many as 30 million Americans have the condition. Of this 30 million, 20% report to be disabled by it. An audiologist may test two people who report identical loudness and frequency of tinnitus yet one person suffers from it and the other barely notices it.  Tinnitus is believed to be caused by inner ear cell damage. Cilia in your inner ear move in relation to the pressure of sound waves. This triggers these cells to release an electrical signal through a nerve from your ear (auditory nerve) to your brain. Your brain interprets these signals as sound. If the hairs inside your inner ear are bent or broken, they can “leak” random electrical impulses to your brain, causing tinnitus.

mag1The important thing to remember about tinnitus is that the brain’s response to these random electrical signals determines whether or not a person is annoyed by their tinnitus or not.  Magnetoencephalography (MEG, for short) studies have been used to study tinnitus and the brain.

MEG takes advantage of the fact that every time neurons send each other signals, their electric current creates a tiny magnetic field. MEG allows scientists to detect such changing patterns of activity in the brain 100 times per second. These studies indicated tinnitus affects the entire brain and helps with understanding why certain therapies are more effective than others.

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Common Causes of Ears To Ring Tinnitus:

  1. Noise exposure. Exposure to loud noises can damage the outer hair cells, which are part of the inner ear. These hair cells do not grow back once they are damaged. Even short exposure to very loud sounds, such as gunfire, can be damaging to the ears and cause permanent hearing loss. Long periods of exposure to moderately loud sounds, such as factory noise or music played through earphones, can result in just as much damage to the inner ear, with permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. Listening to moderately loud sounds for hours at a young age carries a high risk of developing hearing loss and tinnitus later in life.
  2. Medication. Some medications are known to be ototoxic while others list tinnitus as a side effect without causing permanent damage to the ear structures. New medications come out so often that it is difficult to maintain an up to date listing; another option, if you are experiencing tinnitus and are curious if it could be your medication, is to talk to your pharmacist or look up your specific prescriptions online through a website. You should never stop a medication without consulting with your physician, even if you think it may be contributing to your tinnitus.
  3. Age-related hearing loss.
  4. Earwax blocking the ear canal. When too much earwax accumulates, it becomes too hard to wash away naturally, causing hearing loss or irritation of the eardrum, which can lead to tinnitus.

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Plane Noise Can Affect Your Health

Plane Noise Can Affect Your Health

Did you know that plane noise can affect your hearing?

airplane-noise-3Airplane noise is not just annoying, it is hazardous to our health, President of Quiet Skies Len Schaier told Community Board 8 last Wednesday. Schaier, whose organization advocates at the federal level to reduce airplane noise, said that their number one agenda was to lower the noise threshold that is currently accepted by the Federal Aviation Administration.

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The FAA is required to act to mitigate noise for properties where the airplane noise level goes above the threshold. Advocates seek to lower the threshold for allowable noise from 65 Day/Night Level to 55 DNL. DNL is a metric based on the average airplane noise decibel level across an entire day and night, with an added penalty for noise during late night and early morning hours. The 65 DNL level was determined based on research from the early 1970s that found most people were not annoyed by sound at that level, which is quieter than a conversation at home, but louder than a conversation in a noisy restaurant.

plane-noise-2Schaier said that research has found 55 or 53 decibels is a noise level that is both less annoying and less hazardous to our health. Because the decibel system is not linear, 65 decibels is not just 18 percent louder than 55 decibels. It is in fact about twice as loud. Many, including State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) argue that the 65 DNL threshold, is based on outdated research.

Do You Suffer With Plane Noise? Consider Earplugs to safeguard against health damage.

“It is easy to dismiss airplane noise a non-issue if you are not one of the thousands of families being affected day in and day out,” Stavisky said in a statement. “But we now know the current threshold of 56 DNL is obsolete.” She sent a letter to U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand asking them to support a change to the 55 DNL level.

plane-noise-1Many countries and organizations, including the Environmental Protection Agency, and the World Health Organization, use 55 as their threshold, based on health research.

“The rest of the world thinks about health and wellness. We are still thinking about the annoyance,” Schaier said.

“The same planes land in Europe, how can we justify a different standard?”

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Health risks to airplane noise or proximity to airport include cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and sleep loss and its attendant risks of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease as well as accidents.

A study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that for every 10 decibels of airplane noise, risk of cardiovascular hospitalization rose 3.5 percent. It also found that while there was a correlation between ZIP codes with high airplane noise and heart-related hospitalizations, that correlation ceased to exist with noise levels below 55 DNL.

In the LaGuardia area, 5,209 individuals are estimated to live in households where the DNL is greater than 65. That number is 32,085 around JFK Airport.
Across the country, 29 congressional representatives signed a letter to the FAA to change the DNL threshold from 65 to 55.

But Schaier said he wanted New York’s elected officials to do more. “Schumer and Gillibrand have just been out of the picture,” he said.


Do You Suffer With Plane Noise? Consider Earplugs to safeguard against health damage.