Sensory loss is one of the most difficult aspects of the ageing process. The changes tend to happen gradually, over several years. This means it’s not always easy to notice when the changes start. 

The most common sensory losses experienced by older people are hearing and vision loss. Both of these can significantly reduce the quality of life for people impacted. For this reason, it’s important to manage the changes and take steps to protect vision and hearing as much as possible.

If you’re worried about age-related sensory loss, here’s what you need to know:

What happens to our eyes and ears as we age?

As we get older, many changes happen to our eyes and ears. These changes are responsible for the hearing and vision loss experienced by older people.

How the ears change as we get older.

According to a report by the Hearing Care Industry Association (HCIA), 66% of older adults in Australia (aged 61+) experience some hearing loss.

There are many potential causes. In some cases, this is due to an accumulation of wax in the ear. But there are also age-related changes to the eardrum and nervous system that we should consider.

These changes impact people in many ways. For example, older people can find it difficult to maintain conversations in loud environments.

How the eyes change as we get older.

Many changes happen in the eyes as we get older, resulting in vision loss.

Some of these changes are a normal part of the ageing process. For example, exposure to ultraviolet light across our lifetime can cause the whites of our eyes to yellow — and produce fewer of the tears required to keep our eyes hydrated.

As well as these age-related changes, some eye disorders become more common as we get older. These include:

  • Cataracts. These tend to develop slowly and are characterised by a cloudy appearance to the lens, as well as blurred or double vision.
  • Macular degeneration. The macular forms part of the retina, the part of your eye responsible for relaying images to your brain. As we age, this degenerates — resulting in vision loss.
  • Glaucoma. This is a common eye disorder that affects the visual nerve connecting your eye to your brain. It can be hard to diagnose as symptoms appear slowly over time, but early diagnosis is essential to prevent vision loss.

How can we manage age-related hearing and vision loss?

Although these changes are perfectly normal parts of the ageing process, we are not powerless against them. There are several things we can do to manage the changes and protect our hearing and vision for as long as possible.

In all the cases mentioned above, early intervention can make a huge difference. 

This means it’s a good idea to see audiologists and optometrists regularly as we age, so they can monitor the health of the ears and eyes respectively.

This is especially important when it comes to protecting our vision.

Although cataracts are relatively simple to treat, both macular degeneration and glaucoma cause irreversible damage to the eyes, and can result in vision loss.

It’s not possible to restore vision once it has been lost in this way. However, when the disorders are identified early, steps can be taken to prevent further damage and protect vision.

Depending on the severity of the condition, treatment can include eye drops, laser eye treatment or other surgical interventions.

Do you live in Sydney and want to protect your vision as you age? Get in touch to find out how we can help you. Call us on (02) 9230 0010 or contact us here.