Age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, is a gradual loss of hearing that happens to many people as they grow older. Thus, this type of hearing loss is one of the most common in the world and affects the older population, including elderly adults over the age of 65. Some people lose their hearing earlier than others.
If you are older than 75, you may notice an even more drastic change in hearing, as nearly half of the elders over 75 have hearing problems. However, this accounts for less than half of the population with some form of hearing loss, which is of working age.
Not only does age-related hearing loss make it difficult to hear doorbells, phones, and smoke alarms needed to keep you safe, you may not be able to even follow and understand your doctor’s advice. Hearing problems can be detrimental to your safety and quality of life, which can often lead to feelings of isolation as you can no longer communicate with your loved ones.
Why Does Hearing Change with Age?
As you age, certain changes will take place in your body throughout the rest of your life. Hearing loss is a very real change that should be expected to begin for most people in their 30s or 40s. The loss can continue into old age, and although it is not a life threating condition, it can have a dangerous impact on your quality of life if you do not consult with a doctor or look for treatment options.
What is Presbycusis?
Hearing loss that is age-related, sometimes called presbycusis, is hereditary. There may be some environmental factors that have been proved to cause this type of hearing loss as well. However, your doctor can determine the cause of your exact case of hearing loss.
Causes of presbycusis can include various changes in the inner ear that result in hearing damage, including:
- Changes in the brain involving speech processing or sound
- Physical changes in blood flow to the ear
- Physical changes in the inner ear structures
- Damage of the tiny hairs in the inner ear responsible for moving sound from the ear to the brain
- Nerve damage in the ear
You may have a greater risk of developing hearing problems related to age as a cause of another issue or your lifestyle, including the following:
- Repeated exposure to extremely loud noises
- Taking certain medications in relation to medical conditions
- A family history of hearing impairment
- Poor circulation
Signs to Look for Hearing Loss
Many people with presbycusis or age-related hearing loss first experience an inability to hearing high-frequency sounds, like doorbells or whistles. High-frequency sounds are also found in speech, so you could have trouble hearing what people say to you.
Voices may sound muffled or slurred. One of the common signs of hearing loss, this problem hearing voices is particularly evident when trying to hear someone say consonants including the letters:
Another common indicator of hearing loss that related to age lies in the voices of who is speaking to you. Often, men’s voices will be easier to hear than women’s, especially in a nosier than usual environment.
Some symptoms may accompany your changes in balance and hearing that should be immediately mentioned to your doctor, especially if you experience more than one of them. Consult your physician soon if you experience the following hearing loss symptoms:
- A ringing sound in your ears
- Certain sounds seeming louder than normal
- Vision changes
- Headaches that range in severity
Doctors can explain more about the different types of treatment used for hearing loss in the elderly and make sure that you’re hearing troubles are indeed age-related and not a symptom coming from a bigger problem or disease.
What Treatments can Save My Hearing?
No cure exists for age-related hearing loss, so if you’re diagnosed, you will want to work with your doctor to improve and protect the hearing you do have while avoiding any further damage from loud noise or certain medications.
In most cases, a hearing aid is used to improve your hearing. Your doctor may also recommend assistive devices like telephone amplifiers to allow you to answer your phone or lessons in sign language or lip reading to aid in communication.
Cochlear implants may also help make sounds louder, but they won’t restore your hearing to normal. Typically, implants are only used in age-related hearing problems in very severe cases.
You will want to promptly seek help from a doctor if you think your hearing has been affected. As your hearing loss continues to become worse, your ability to communicate and perform daily activities and functions will decrease. To minimize the loss of your hearing and maintain your way of life, seek treatment for your age-related loss or presbycusis.