What is presbycusis?
Presbycusis is the gradual loss of hearing that occurs as people age. It is a common disorder associated with aging. One in three older adults over age 65 has hearing loss. About half of people over age 75 have hearing loss.
Presbycusis usually occurs gradually, and typically in both ears equally, with some people not immediately aware of the change.
What causes presbycusis?
There may be many causes for presbycusis, but it most commonly occurs because of age-related changes in the following locations:
Within the inner ear (most common)
Within the middle ear
Along the nerve pathways to the brain
Contributors to presbycusis include:
Cumulative effects of environmental noises
Loss of hair cells (sensory receptors in inner ear)
Various health conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes
Side effects of some medications, such as aspirin and certain antibiotics
What are the symptoms of presbycusis?
The following are the most common symptoms of presbycusis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Speech of others sounds mumbled or slurred
High-pitched sounds, such as "s" or "th" are hard to distinguish
Conversations are difficult to understand, particularly when there is background noise
Men's voices are easier to hear than women's
Some sounds seem overly loud and annoying
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) may occur in one or both ears
The symptoms of presbycusis may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
Treatment for presbycusis
Specific treatment for presbycusis will be determined by the doctor based on:
Your age, overall health, and medical history
Extent of the disease
Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the disease
Your opinion or preference
Treatment options for presbycusis may include:
Avoiding loud noises and reducing noise exposure
Wearing ear plugs or special fluid-filled ear muffs (to prevent further damage to hearing)
Assistive devices, such as telephone amplifiers
Training in speech reading (to use visual cues to determine what is being said)