Aging Psychology and Hearing and Smell Term Paper

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Sensory Loss in the Aged


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Hearing loss that interferes with the ability to understand spoken language is a disability that creates difficulty in a variety of circumstances. A hearing deficit is especially serious for children as it may interfere with their ability to learn necessary life skills. For the adult hearing loss may interfere with their social life or with their ability to work and remain a contributing member of society. The extent of the hearing loss and the degree to which it interferes with a person's ability to work determine which measures may be appropriate and in which circumstances.

The ultimate goal of hearing loss treatment is to improve the person's ability to function in life. The improvement in their quality of life must justify the cost. The following will explore the different treatment options available and when their use may justify the cost. The following will examine several cases of hearing loss and discuss appropriate interventions in each case.

Hearing Loss as a Result of Ageing

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There are many causes of hearing loss as we grow older. Some of these factors include exposure to noise. A loud sudden noise can cause hearing loss, as can long-term exposure to slightly elevated levels of noise. Damage to the tiny hair cells in the cochlea is known as sensorineural hearing loss (RNID, 2003). This type of damage can be caused by certain diseases such as mumps, measles, rubella, Multiple sclerosis and Meniere's disease (RNID, 2003). Exposure to certain drugs can also damage these structures including aspirin, quinine, streptomycin and gentamicin (RNID, 2003). Damage of this type can be sudden or gradual. Some types of gradual hearing loss are genetic.

Regardless of the cause, the treatment of this type of hearing loss is highly dependent upon the amount of loss of quality of life that it causes. Obviously, it the hearing loss affects job or career then this would be considered more important than for someone that is only affected in social situations that occur a few times a year. Hearing aids are often the first treatment option, particularly in cases of mild to moderate hearing loss.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Aging Psychology and Hearing and Smell Assignment

In some cases, such as where the loss is significant and causes a considerable impairment in the person's life cochlear implants may be a permanent answer. In hearing loss where the cochlea has been damaged to the point where they no longer transmit sound, a prosthetic implant may be the answer. This device bypasses the cochlea and directly stimulates the auditory nerve via a series of tiny electrodes. This surgery should only be considered for those that have a severe or total hearing loss because the procedure destroys any remaining hair cells, which causes any useful hearing that the person had before the surgery to be lost (V.M. Bloedel Hearing Research Center Website). A hearing aid is the best alternative for those that do not have a complete or near complete loss.

Those who became deaf after they learned to speak and those that receive a cochlear implant soon after becoming deaf receive the greatest benefits from surgery (V.M. Bloedel Hearing Research Center Website). In a study regarding quality-of-life regarding Cochlear implants vs. hearing aids, it was found that Cochlear implant users demonstrated twice the quality of life improvement as hearing-aid users. Users were found to benefit the physical, psychological and social realms for those that had received cochlear implants (Cohen & Haynes, 2004). However, the patient must be aware that they may not be able to participate in certain activities such as swimming or taking a sauna as this may damage the device (Arabi, 2004).

Question of Cost

As with all types of medical decisions the benefit to the patient is the ultimate concern. However, this must also be weighed with the financial impact. The benefits of the procedure may not always outweigh the costs in some cases. According to the Hearing Aid Price Guide (2006) there are over 8 different manufacturers of different devices. Prices range from around $1,500 to $2,500 dollars, depending on the manufacturer and type. A hearing aid need replaced every 5-7 years, depending on care (Earinfo, 2006). This means that the earlier a person gets a hearing aid, the more it will costs over their lifetime. For a twenty-year-old, it may be cheaper over the person's lifetime to opt for a cochlear implant.

A cochlear implant has an average cost of $19, 745. Medicaid typically only pays $14,000, sometimes as low as $3,000 (, 2006a). Costs can soar upwards of $60,000 depending on circumstances (, 2006b).Various signal processors in the devices are responsible for different outcomes for patients (Spahr and Dorman, 2004). Summerfield and associates (2002) found that quality of life measured in unit costs was greater in unilateral, rather than bilateral cochlear implants.

The Question of whether insurance should pay for hearing aids is a topic of considerable debate. The current standpoint on funding for hearing loss appear to be the same whether one requests funding for a hearing aid or a cochlear implant. There is little difference in the outcome between Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance (Listen-up-org). The reasoning for this is that hearing loss is an inconvenience, but it not considered to pose any real threat to the person. It can be argued that the societal costs for either a hearing aid or a cochlear implant are offset by the productivity of the person in the workforce. Insurance should pay for either device as is determined to be appropriate by the physician.

Hair Regeneration new technique for restoring hearing has recently begun to be explored. Hair cell regeneration is the latest technique to be explored for a possible solution in cochlear hair loss. At the current time the technique has only been tried on mice (Bauman, 2004). Human cochlear hair regeneration is not as easy as it would at first seem. Researchers face many challenges in this process. The first is that the cochlea contains two types of cells, hair cells and supporting cells. When a hair cell dies the surviving support cell must receive the correct signals to be turned on (Bauman, 2004). Cell differentiation poses the greatest difficulty in the ability to regenerate human cochlear hairs.

It is likely that at some time in the future researchers will unlock the mystery to how to regenerate highly specialized cells such as these. However, at the current time, they are not even close to being able to devise something that is even close to workable in a human being. There are many challenges including the problem that sometimes the new cells fail to work in guinea pigs (Pobojewsky, 2003). This research is not likely to be abandoned, but it will be many years into the future before if provides a viable alternative for humans suffering hearing loss.


The sense of smell is often placed low on the list of importance when it comes to sensory loss. The senses of hearing and sight are often much higher in importance with a loss of sense of smell hardly gaining any attention. Loss of a sense of smell and its accompanying loss of a sense of taste are a common complaint among the elderly. However, this typically receives little attention from the medical community.

A loss of the sense of smell can have an important impact on the lives of the elderly. The first effect that must be considered is the effect on the sense of taste. A majority of our sense of taste relies on the olfactory sense. When the sense of smell is reduced or gone, the person may report that food tastes bland. This may effect their appetite and be a culprit in unwanted weight loss (Mathey et al., 2001).

Another problem associated with a loss of sense of smell is that the person may not be able to detect odors that indicate danger, such as the smell of natural gas (Cain and Stephens, 1986). A loss of smell was found to be problematic in a large portion of elderly people taking part in the recent study (Murphy et al., 2002). Reiter and Constanzo (2003) found that a loss of smell significantly decreases a person's quality of life. They pointed out several professions that depend on a sense of smell, such as a chef. Loss of a sense of smell could have as much of an impact on the ability of the person to function in daily life and to hold a career as the loss of any other sense, yet many do not see it that way.

It is generally agreed among scholars and the medical profession that some loss of smell occurs as a natural part of the aging process (NIDCO, 2006). Exposure to chemicals can cause a loss of a sense of smell (NIDCO, 2006). Currently, there is no treatment for a loss of sense of smell. However, there are assistive devices available for those that may not smell natural gas (NIDCO). Vitamin deficiencies, malnutrition and diabetes… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Aging Psychology and Hearing and Smell.  (2006, December 15).  Retrieved September 24, 2021, from

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"Aging Psychology and Hearing and Smell."  15 December 2006.  Web.  24 September 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Aging Psychology and Hearing and Smell."  December 15, 2006.  Accessed September 24, 2021.