Ears

Introduction

  • As people age, they may hear less well and balance may become difficult to maintain.
  • These changes occur because some structures in the ear that help with hearing or balance deteriorate with age.
  • Moreover, earwax tends to accumulate more in elderly. This accumulation can interfere with hearing.
  • The importance of hearing goes beyond the mere perception of sound. It also affects a person’s interactions, thoughts and skills.

Sign & Symptoms

  • Ear wax becomes more viscous and needs to be removed in one-quarter of elderly people.
  • Loss of high-frequency or high-pitched hearing (presbycusis) occurs as people age. They may notice that violin music has lost some of its brightness or they may have trouble understanding what women and children say because most women and children have higher-pitched voices than men. May be more disturbing for older people is that other people seem to always be mumbling.
  • Difficulty in hearing when background noise exists (recruitment). For example, many older people have more trouble hearing in loud places or in groups.

Complications

  • Impaired hearing may lead to social isolation, increased risk of psychiatric disorders especially paranoia (suspiciousness) and impaired health.
  • It is also associated with tinnitus, dizziness and unsteadiness.
  • It also increases the risk of accidents because of reduced auditory (hearing) warnings.

Treatment

  • Older people who have impaired hearing should be advised to wear hearing-aids.
  • Hearing aids can help elderly with hearing impairment to hear better.
Last Review : 26 April 2012
Writer : Dr. Ho Bee Kiau
Reviewed : Dr. Cheah Wee Kooi