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It’s a very basic question. You spend some adult time partying with friends and family, but something is off. You are standing in a space filled with adults like yourself, yet, it almost seems like you are on an island. Why? The biggest problem is you’re only hearing about every third word of the conversation. If the person you’re with has a high-pitched voice, you pick up even less. It seems unlikely that everyone else is mumbling, right? What are the odds?

Very small, unfortunately, this isn’t going to turn out to be a party full of mumblers. The more likely cause of the problem is your hearing. Let’s face it, it isn’t what it used to be and that’s getting in the way of your party fun. It’s also likely that this problem has been around awhile. Maybe you complain about that same mumble while at the local store or when watching TV.

Age-related hearing loss is typically first noticed in noisy environments like your adult party. Everyone’s talking at once and the music is playing, so you’re struggling. The first step is to learn more about age-related hearing loss and what you can do about, so next party with won’t feel like a loner.

What is Age-Related Hearing Loss?

Presbycusis or age-related hearing loss is a condition often associated with people between the ages of 65 and 74, but it starts much younger. Simply put, the cause is natural wear and tear on the nerve cells in the ears. These cells send electrical impulses to the brain that it translates into the sound you hear.

Sound actually comes in waves. Those waves enter the ear canal and travel to the inner ear for processing. That puts stress on the cells, so after about 50 or 60 years, they start to break down, especially for individuals who spend their life exposed to loud noises. Maybe you drove for the last 20 years with the windows down and the radio up or have been wearing earbuds to listen to music since they first hit the market.

These little things that put stress on the tiny hair cells of the inner ear until they can no longer function and that makes hearing more difficult. Age-related hearing loss is a progressive condition, as well, meaning it starts small and grows worse over time. By age 65, most people start to notice a change, but it starts earlier in life.

Can You Slow the Process?

There is no way to reverse the process. Once these cells suffer damage, you can’t repair them, but you can take better care of your ears to slow the process down and may even save some of your hearing. If you are frequently exposed to loud noises, either at home or on the job, take steps to protect your ears. Lose the headphones and earbuds, for example.

Look into ear protection if there is noise you can’t get away from like the lawnmower or equipment on the job. What you do now will matter later on, so it’s important to treat your ears like delicate instruments because that’s exactly what they are — these mechanisms represent some of the most delicate parts of the human body.

What About the Party?

There are things you can do to improve your party time, too. For one thing, face the people who you are talking with to improve your chances of hearing what they are saying. Don’t be shy about your hearing problem, either. Just be open and honest with your friends. Tell them you are having a problem understanding what they say. That little tidbit of information is enough to get them to slow down when speaking and maybe turn up the volume a bit.

The best plan of attack, though, is to get your hearing checked. If you can’t hear at a party, then what else are you missing? Getting a check-up means you are doing something about it and that’s good. If the answer is an age-related hearing condition, a hearing test tells you what you everything you need to know and whether hearing aids might turn you into the life of the party once again.