Age-Related Hearing Loss: Hearing Aids Aren't Like They Used To Be

Newer, more advanced options are out there for those suffering from presbycusis.

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What? WHAT??

Sound familiar? The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that age-related hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic condition in seniors. Between 25 and 40 percent of people 65 years or older are hearing impaired.

Yet, many of them resist getting hearing aids. “There’s a stigma surrounding hearing aids—that they’re bulky, stick out and make people look old,” says Dr. Andrew Chuma of Chester County Otolaryngology and Allergy Associates in Kennett Square. “But new technology has made a wide variety of hearing aids possible—many of which sit in the ear or just behind it and are almost invisible.”

Chuma knows this first-hand. Born with otosclerosis, he wears a hearing aid. “Mine sits behind the ear; there’s a thin wire that leads to my ear drum, which is almost invisible,” says Chuma.

Often, people don’t realize the severity of their impairment. “It’s a gradual loss and the brain compensates for it,” Chuma says. “People turn up the volume on TVs or telephones. The brain signals other senses—especially vision—to help. Most people begin to lip read without realizing it.”

Presbycusis is the medical term for age-related hearing loss, and it’s a problem of degenerating cells. “There are minuscule hair cells in the ear that catch sound waves, evaluate them and send that information to the brain,” says Dr. Richard Herman of Otolaryngology Plastic Surgery Associates, with offices in Doylestown, Lansdale and Sellersville. “The degeneration of those hair cells causes the loss in auditory processing.”

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