Hearing and the
that occur in our sense of hearing are probably more of a result of
exposure to noise rather than the effects of aging. Research has
continued to demonstrate that exposure to a lot of noise over time
damages your hearing severely. However, there are some changes
in hearing that occur as people age regardless of whether they have
been exposed to loud noise or not.
Both hearing and
balance are affected to some degree by the aging process. These
changes occur because some of the structures inside of the ear which
assist in the hearing process and for providing balance deteriorate
slightly. Ear wax also tends to accumulate and interfere with an
individualís hearing as they age.
As people age they
began to notice that they cannot hear high-pitched sounds as well as
they did when they were younger. They may notice that high-pitched
sounds such as violins or flute music have lost some of their
brightness. Or they may have trouble understanding what women or
children are saying. They usually do not have as much difficulty
understanding men because of the lower tone quality associated with
most menís voices.
Some older people
complain that people are always mumbling and that it seems that when
other people speak even loudly, the words are still difficult to
comprehend. This is also usually associated with their difficulty in
hearing high-pitched sounds. Most consonants, such as c, k, p, s, and
t, are closed, quick, high-pitch sounds. The vowels are open, longer,
and are much more lower pitched. As a result, many older people hear
vowels much better than consonants. Consonants are sounds that are
fundamental to helping people identify words. When an individual is
unable to hear consonants well, it sounds as if the person speaking is
not pronouncing their words clearly and the meaning is frequently
lost. Speaking loudly does not usually help because it tends to
accentuate the vowels, and not the consonants.
associated with hearing among older individuals is their difficulty
hearing in loud places or in groups with significant background noise.
These situations may be helped by having hearing aids. Hearing aids
can help people with hearing loss to hear much better and remain much
more functional in their everyday lives.
from The Merck Manual of Health and Aging
Webpage and additional information by Paul Susic MA Licensed
Psychologist Ph.D Candidate Clinical Director
Senior Care Psychological Consulting.