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According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, age-related hearing loss or presbycusis is a gradual decrease in hearing that occurs with age and can start as early as a person’s thirties or forties. High frequency sounds which include speech sounds are the first to suffer. Because it occurs gradually, though, many adults don’t immediately notice the loss but simply assume the tv/radio/phone/etc needs to the volume turned up. Gradual changes in vocal pitch and strength are also common with aging. These changes are not reversible, but recognizing them and sharing them with your medical providers can help to implement better quality of life.
Hearing loss and speech deficiencies can create difficulty in social settings and cause anxiety, frustration, depression and isolation. If you are experiencing a decline in hearing and/or speech, don’t ignore it. Make others aware of your hearing deficiencies. Ask people to turn to you when they are speaking, and to speak up, but not yell. Shouting is unnecessary as it can actually make hearing more difficult. Speaking clearly and articulating properly will aid in better hearing. When in conversation, eliminate background noise by turning off the television and radio, silencing phones, or moving away from crowded areas. Make it a point to face individuals when they speak. Avoiding prolonged exposure to loud noise and wearing ear plugs during exposure may protect eardrums from further damage. For more severe hearing loss an audiologist can recommend hearing aids or other measures to amplify sound.
For improved speech function, a speech language pathologist (SLP) can be helpful. Vocal chords become less elastic and larynx muscles weaken with age resulting in changes such as lower or higher speech tone, difficulty projecting or a gravelly sounding voice. A speech language pathologist can teach vocal exercises to improve communication skills. SLPs aren’t just for vocal exercises and articulation either. They can also help with cognitive skills. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) says a large number of older adults will experience problems with word-retrieval, and may have difficulty remember names and well-know words. In this frustrating situation, an SLP can determine if this type of communication difficulty is typical in a healthy aging adult or if dementia or other cognitive problems are present. An SLP can also offer exercises to help with word-association and word-retrieval. Regular communication with family and friends is a good way to practice cognitive skills and maintain healthy speech capabilities.
Aging may seem daunting but it doesn’t have to be. Open communication with your medical providers and with family and friends can make a world of difference both physically and mentally. Wellness doesn’t happen by chance. It takes a village. Let the people closest to you help, and take advantage of the modern medical resources available to you.
DISCLAIMER: This article contains information that is intended to help the readers be better informed regarding exercise and health care. It is presented as general advice on health care. Always consult your doctor for your individual needs. Before beginning any new exercise program it is recommended that you seek medical advice from your personal physician. This article is not intended to be a substitute for the medical advice of a licensed physician. The reader should consult with their doctor in any matters relating to his/her health.