RVNA Today: Our five senses and how they change with age

A recent article by AARP describes how our senses change with age. Hearing can be impacted by normal aging as well as by a lifetime of loud noises. Tiny hair cells in our ears that send signals to our brains don’t regenerate, and this can contribute to brain shrinkage and more than double the risk of dementia. Wearing earphones or headphones around loud noises can help, as can control of weight, blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Hearing aids can also help. As we advance in years, vision also changes. Focusing up close is more difficult, and rates of macular degeneration and glaucoma double between ages 45 and 55. The risk of cataracts triples. To combat vision changes, get regular exercise, adequate sleep, eye surgery for cataracts or other conditions, and treatment for dry eye. The slower regeneration of cells within our taste buds affects the sense of taste as we age. Other conditions such as diabetes, upper respiratory infections and rheumatoid arthritis may also impact taste sensitivity. Stay on top of blood sugar levels, infections and inflammatory bowel disease, treat dry mouth, and experiment with using more complex and intense flavors in food. The sense of smell results from aromas passing through nerve endings high in our noses and then traveling to the brain. These nerve endings can wear out and die off, making food less enjoyable and affecting our ability to smell smoke, natural gas and other dangerous odors. Regular exercise and not drinking excessively can help reduce the loss of smell. The sense of touch can also start to deteriorate in middle age, affecting the ability to detect pain, heat and cold. It can also impact our sense of body movement and make us feel unsteady. It’s good to stay active, wear body hugging clothing to stimulate touch receptors, and enjoy physical affection.