Damage, through injury or degeneration, that affects the structures of the ear or the nerve conduction pathways between the ear and the brain and results in the inability to interpret auditory signals. There is no association between hearing loss and Parkinson’s disease except that they are both more common with age. Age-related degeneration is the most common cause of hearing loss; a third of adults older than the age of 65 have some degree of hearing impairment. Regular screening that measures the ear’s ability to transmit sound is the most effective way to detect hearing loss, as most people are adept at compensating for hearing impairment until it becomes severe. The person with hearing loss might not be aware that he or she does not hear properly.
Hearing loss interferes with communication, causing misunderstandings and confusion. This loss becomes particularly challenging for the person with Parkinson’s, as many of the symptoms make the person not to be responding or paying attention. These are also common characteristics of hearing loss. Anyone older than age 65 who has Parkinson’s should have his or her hearing tested. Hearing aids can provide partial to complete restoration of hearing ability for many people with hearing loss. Other people can learn alternate methods of communication. It is helpful for care-givers to know that there is a hearing impairment, so they can use approaches such as writing instructions for the person or making certain to confirm that the person understands what is being communicated. Hearing impairments are commonly related to aging or other factors such as noise exposure.