Presbycusis is the condition which affects the elderly population. In literal terms it is referred as old hearing or elder hearing. The perspective about presbycusis differs with continent to continent. The World Health organization (WHO) estimates that in 2025, there will be 1.2 billion people over 60 years of age worldwide, with more than 500 million individuals who will suffer significant impairment from presbycusis.
Hearing loss in elderly people is usually bilateral, symmetrical and progressive with changing demographic detail and increased life expectancy it has become a major concern.
If we take the elderly population in Sri Lanka discrepancies are observed widely among hearing thresholds and hearing handicap as our grandparents deliberately refuse the fact they have hearing difficulty and they consider it as a natural phenomenon since they are not necessarily disturbed by their deficit in everyday life.
This has been rooted in them due to several reasons such as reduced self- perception unless they encounter a difficult situation, necessity for communication if he/she is living alone the need for communication is limited, economical background this plays the major role in seeking consultation as well as purchasing a hearing aid. We all know hearing aids are judged as overly priced instruments despite of the benefits they provide for an individual, if he/she is leading a financially challenged life the urge to go for a hearing consultation is also less next thing is cosmetic appeal due to the size of the hearing aid and also the social stigma towards hearing aids unlike spectacles most of the people feel that hearing aids reduce their confidence.
These prevailing social views and public opinion and the unawareness of serious consequences that result from untreated hearing impairment. Older people often perceive severe to profound degree as the hearing handicap and at this stage when they seek help it becomes a challenge for the hearing care professional to provide a tailored solution.
The young population in Sri Lankan communities have a strong attitude towards their parents once they become old and reach retirement age they do not have the need to communicate with the external environment and they should be restricted inside the family circle. This thought is implicated in this geriatric population resulting in reduced perception of hearing loss where they are deprived of the use of amplification. The same scenario contradicts with individuals who have higher social status in the society and those who are financially stable to opt for hearing aid. Due to their unavoidable needs in their occupational and social life they perceive the hearing difficulty even at a mild to moderate degree.
Hearing difficulty leads to major health complications such as depression, dementia, Alzheimer's and other cognitive disorders. Depression results in anxiety which in turn causes severe heart diseases.
Elderly people should be explained about their hearing handicap and the future consequences of hearing loss. Through proper counselling and continued family support will drive them towards health hearing.
This would motivate and encourage to seek help because hearing is as important as any other health requirements.
Audiologist - HO