Healthy Aging and Hearing

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In Honor of Hearing Awareness Month

Hearing is an important part of how we communicate with our friends and loved ones.

New research from aging studies shows that there is a higher than expected amount of hearing loss in Canada. Did you know that 18% of Canadians and nearly half of people over 60 have hearing loss in at least one ear?

Even though these numbers are staggering, nearly three quarters of individuals with hearing loss do nothing about it.

Research clearly shows that early identification and treatment of hearing loss is critical in order to keep the brain working properly.

John Hopkins Medical Centre (2014) showed that the auditory and memory portions of the brain deteriorate if hearing loss goes untreated for 4 years or more. In addition, recent research in the Lancet (July 2017) identifies untreated hearing loss as one of the top 10 modifiable risk factors for dementia.

The most common type of hearing loss is due to the natural wear and tear of the hair cells in the inner ear from aging. These cells deteriorate over time or from loud noise exposure and cannot be repaired. In many cases, hearing aids will be recommended.

Prevention is key. Take care to listen to your earbuds at a comfortable level where no one else can hear what you are listening to. Use proper hearing protection if you attend loud concerts or are using noisy yard equipment.

Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of hearing loss:

  • More difficulty hearing women and children’s voices
  • Turning up the TV louder than friends or family
  • Increased difficulty understanding what is being said in a noisy place
  • Withdrawing from activities where it is difficult to hear
  • Hearing people speaking but not understanding what they say
  • Asking people to repeat themselves frequently
  • Feeling that people mumble all the time
  • Constant ringing or buzzing in the ears
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Dr. Carrie Scarff
Dr. Carrie Scarff completed her Master of Science in Audiology at Dalhousie University, clinical Audiology internships at Georgetown Medical Centre in Washington DC and The IWK Grace hospital in Halifax, and her PhD and PostDoc in Auditory Behavioural Neuroscience at the University of Calgary in the area of brain plasticity and hearing research. She has publications in the areas of early identification of hearing loss and auditory cortical plasticity following hearing loss with her colleagues at The University of Calgary and Dalhousie University.