Gettin’ Up There: Did you hear the one about the aging ear?

There I was, washing dishes as the TV blared nearby. Suddenly, a bizarre question came from my Sony.

“Do you like crap?”

WTH? What kind of commercial is this?

The voice continued. “How long has it been since you had really good crap?”

I couldn’t believe my ears were processing such a foul query. 

Quickly, I dried my hands and raced to the screen to see who the buffoon was. 

I saw it was me. 

This was a Crab Fest ad for Red Lobster – and I’d just experienced my first undeniable encounter with hearing changes. (As if the super-loud TV and use of captions weren’t telltale…)

How did this happen? Seems like yesterday when I could detect my kid’s cuss words from a football field away.

Was it all the years of using headphones, listening to rock and roll on extreme volume? (Probably didn’t help.)

Or digging too deeply in my ears with my former beau’s French cologne-dipped Q-tips? (Eh. But I so enjoyed that experience.)

Or maybe my inner Buddha commanding this historically gullible empath to stand firm against the ambient lies and BS? (I’d buy that one but doubt it would manifest as confusing consonants).

The American Academy of Audiology reports that age-related hearing loss (AKA “presbycusis”) affects one-third of adults over 60, and usually presents as high-pitched hearing deficits often noticed by subtle hearing changes. Alterations in inner ear structures, blood flow, hearing nerve issues and how the brain processes sound and speech are common causes. Diabetes, poor circulation, noise exposure, medications and other problems can exacerbate it. Asking people to repeat themselves, having difficulty hearing in noisy milieus, missing words or phrases and cranking up the TV or radio are common signs.

In reading about the topic, I related to a quote from SCV audiologist Nola Aronson of Advanced Audiology: “Most the time it starts with not fully understanding what somebody is saying to you. You can hear them, but sometimes you have a hard time understanding the words. As we age, hearing loss doesn’t start with an overall loss of volume. Most of the time you just start having problems with certain frequencies. These frequencies are usually the higher ones that make up the “S” and “T” sounds. Losing these upper frequencies can play tricks on your ears making you think you hear one word when really it was another.”

Yup.

Audiologist Patrice Rifkind of Audiology Associates cautions that unmanaged hearing loss can take a toll. 

The negative effects can include: Decreased quality of life, isolation, anxiety, sadness, and diminished social connections.

Some good news: Avoiding repetitive exposure to loud noises, wearing hearing protection, better health management and using assistive devices can be successful tools in living with age-related hearing loss.

Regrettably, most of us Boomers poked fun at “hard of hearing” elders when we were young. (Ayyy?) Back then we easily took our wellbeing and the wondrous phenomenon of intact senses for granted. Now that we’ve become the wiser, ascended generation, we must preserve what we have, including the miracle of hearing.

I really do give a crab about this situation. So, I’ve added “audiology evaluation” to my self-care to-do list. Because once you start mistaking an edible crustacean for a bowel movement, it’s seriously time to listen up.

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