Hearing Assessments in the Elderly Population

Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is the most prevalent sensory impairment in the elderly. Approximately one in three adults between the ages of 65 and 74 have some degree of hearing loss, while almost half of those older than 75 experience hearing problems.

This hearing loss is primarily caused by the natural changes occurring in our ears as we age. Most commonly those in the inner ear, but changes in the middle ear or along the nerve pathways leading to the brain may also contribute to this loss.

Presbycusis usually affects high-pitched sounds (high-frequency) greatly. For example, a senior citizen may struggle to hear a telephone ringing or the chirping of a bird. However, the same person may be able to hear the sound of a truck driving down the street.

The process of hearing loss is often gradual. As a result, an elderly person may not realise that their hearing is diminishing until they begin to experience a reduced quality of life. Apart from hearing loss itself, these effects include anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, social withdrawal or isolation, difficulty communicating and at times, underperformance in the work environment.

Despite these effects, the elderly are often not assessed and/or treated for hearing loss despite the availability of simple but accurate and reliable screening tools.

Traditional Hearing Assessment Methods

Classic hearing assessment involves a wide array of diagnostic tests performed by a qualified audiologist at an appropriate facility, in a sound-treated booth.

When I worked in a state hospital as a clinical audiologist, old age homes used to organise transport for the elderly to visit the hospital for basic screening. This is obviously a good idea, as early detection of hearing loss is paramount as it allows for early management.

The issue here is that, in most cases, the elderly had to spend the entire day at the hospital waiting to receive hearing care, which was often limited to those who could walk inside a soundbooth. Furthermore, the first patient would be seen early in the morning but had to wait for everyone to be seen before the transport took everyone home.

Some of the elderly simply did not have hearing loss and also would not benefit from hearing aids, but had to spend a whole day at the hospital. This method is both inconvenient and expensive.

The fact of the matter is: there are better, more convenient, and cheaper ways of providing hearing screening for the elderly – without compromising on the quality of the services.

Accessing Accuracy Anywhere

The KUDUwave™ is the only audiometer in the world that is able to accurately evaluate hearing outside of a soundbooth, without the inconvenience and expense associated with this traditional method. Proven to accurately evaluate hearing in the elderly without the need for a soundbooth, its portability allows for accurate, less stressful hearing assessments to be provided in almost any environment, including old age homes.