weekly blog--one for the ages
My father wore a hearing aid. So did his older brother and son. If hereditary holds, at some point soon I will probably be wearing one too. Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting people of age. Approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74, and nearly half of people older than 75 have difficulty hearing.
Hearing loss caused merely by aging is called presbycusis. Doctors do not know why presbycusis affects some people more than others, but it seems to run in families. Another reason for hearing loss may be years of exposure to loud noise. This condition is known as noise-induced hearing loss. Hearing loss can also be caused by viral or bacterial infections, heart conditions or stroke, head injuries, tumors, and certain medicines.
There are a number of devices that can improve hearing loss. The most common are hearing aids, cochlear implants, and assistive listening or amplifying devices. Lip or speech reading has also proven to be an effective aid. The first drugs to protect and repair some types of hearing conditions could be available within the next 5 years.
Scientists are also working on a new gene therapy treatment. One study involves injecting patients’ inner ears with a harmless virus. The virus is stocked with a gene essential to the development of sound-sensing “hair cells” in the cochlea. The hope is that the introduced gene will stimulate the growth of new hair cells and restore some hearing capacity.