Ageing Gracefully, Hearing Strongly

Taking control of your ear health in your golden years
"The risk factors for presbycusis include ageing, genetics, exposure to loud noises, smoking, and certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease."
"The risk factors for presbycusis include ageing, genetics, exposure to loud noises, smoking, and certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease." Special arrangement

We received a flurry of calls and inquiries about a topic that strikes close to home for many of us: hearing issues in the elderly. So we shed light on this important issue and provide some valuable insights into the common ear problems that our elderly community members may encounter.

1. Presbycusis is a type of hearing loss that occurs gradually as a person ages. It is the most common type of hearing loss and affects nearly half of all people over the age of 75.

Symptoms: The symptoms of presbycusis typically include difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds, such as the voices of women and children, as well as difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments. People with presbycusis may also experience tinnitus, which is a ringing or buzzing in the ears.

Risk factors: The risk factors for presbycusis include ageing, genetics, exposure to loud noises, smoking, and certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Treatment: Treatment for presbycusis typically involves the use of hearing aids or cochlear implants to improve hearing. In some cases, medications or surgery may also be recommended.

Prevention: While it is not always possible to prevent presbycusis, there are several steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of hearing loss. These include avoiding exposure to loud noises, quitting smoking, managing medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, and protecting the ears with earplugs or earmuffs in noisy environments. Regular hearing screenings can also help to detect presbycusis early and improve outcomes.

2. Tinnitus is a condition characterised by the perception of sound in the ears or head without an external source of sound. It is commonly experienced by elderly individuals.

Symptoms: Elderly individuals with tinnitus often experience a ringing, buzzing, or hissing sound in their ears. The sound may be intermittent or constant, and it can be experienced in one or both ears.

Risk factors: The risk of developing tinnitus increases with age, and it is also associated with exposure to loud noise, ear infections, earwax buildup, and certain medications. Other risk factors include high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

Treatment: There is currently no cure for tinnitus, but there are several treatment options available to manage symptoms. These include sound therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, and medication. In some cases, hearing aids are also recommended.

Prevention: To prevent tinnitus, it is important to protect the ears from loud noise by wearing earplugs or earmuffs when in noisy environments.

Avoiding the use of cotton swabs to clean the ears can also reduce the risk of earwax buildup, which can contribute to tinnitus. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by managing blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes can also help prevent tinnitus.

3. Cerumen impaction in elderly refers to the buildup of excessive earwax that causes blockage in the ear canal. This condition is more common in older adults due to age-related changes in the ear canal and decreased self-cleaning of the earwax.


} Decreased hearing or hearing loss

} Ear pain or discomfort

} Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

} Dizziness or vertigo

} Feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear

} Itching or discharge from the ear

Risk factors:

} Advanced age

} Use of hearing aids or earplugs

} Narrow ear canals or structural abnormalities in the ear canal

} Excessive earwax production

} Poor ear hygiene


} Over-the-counter earwax removal drops or irrigation kits

} Manual removal by a healthcare professional using special instruments

} Microsuction or curettage to remove the blockage

} In severe cases, referral to an ear, nose, and throat specialist may be necessary


} Avoid using cotton swabs or other objects to clean the ear canal

} Maintain good ear hygiene by washing the outside of the ear with soap and water

} Use earplugs or protective earmuffs in noisy environments

} Regularly check hearing aids and clean them properly

} Seek medical attention if experiencing symptoms of earwax buildup or impaction.

4. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is a common disorder of the inner ear that is characterised by a sudden, intense sensation of spinning or vertigo when certain head movements are made.

Symptoms: The symptoms of BPPV include dizziness or a sensation of spinning that is triggered by certain head movements, such as turning over in bed, looking up or bending over. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, unsteadiness or imbalance, and difficulty focusing.

Risk factors: BPPV is more common in older adults and is often associated with age-related changes in the inner ear. Other risk factors may include head trauma, ear surgery, prolonged bed rest, or a family history of the condition.

Treatment: Treatment for BPPV typically involves a series of head movements or exercises designed to move the displaced crystals in the inner ear back into their proper position. Medications may also be prescribed to alleviate symptoms such as nausea or vertigo. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.

Prevention: There are no specific measures to prevent BPPV, but avoiding sudden or excessive head movements and maintaining good balance and posture can help reduce the risk of falls and injury in those with the condition. It is important to seek medical attention if symptoms of BPPV persist or worsen over time.

It is important for seniors to consult with their healthcare provider or an ENT specialist to determine the best course of treatment for their specific ear problem.

Dr Zubair Saleem is a Senior Geriatric Consultant and Gerontologist

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK

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