Presbycusis (age-related hearing loss) is the gradual loss of hearing in both of the ears. This is a common problem which is associated to aging. 1 in 3 adults over age 65 has hearing loss. Because of the gradual change in hearing, some people are not aware of the change at first.
Most of the times, this condition affects the ability to hear high-pitched noises such as a phone ringing or beeping of a microwave. The ability to hear low-pitched noises is usually not affected.
What causes presbycusis?
There can be many causes for presbycusis. It most often occurs because of changes in the following locations:
- Within the inner ear (most common)
- Within the middle ear
- With the nerve pathways to the brain
Other things that affect presbycusis:
- Damage of hair cells (sensory receptors in the inner ear)
- Inherited factors
- Various health conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes
- Side effects of some medications, such as aspirin and certain antibiotics
How is presbycusis diagnosed?
Your doctor will use an otoscope, which is a lighted scope, to check in the outer ear canal and to look at the ear drum.
The doctor will look for rupture to the ear drum, blockage of the ear canal from foreign objects or impacted ear wax, inflammation or infection.
You can be referred to a hearing specialist, audiologist, to have an audiogram. An audiogram is an ear related test in which sounds are played through headphones, to one ear at a time.
You are asked to react if you are able to hear each sound. If a person can’t hear certain tones this suggests there has been some degree of hearing loss.
What are the symptoms of presbycusis?
The most common symptoms of presbycusis are listed below:
- Speech of different sounds mumbled or slurred
- High-pitched sounds, like "s" or "th" are hard to distinguish
- Conversations are very difficult to understand, specifically when there is background noise
- Men's voices seems easier to hear than women's voices
- Some of the sounds seem overly loud and annoying
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) may occur in one or both ears
The symptoms of presbycusis can appear like other conditions or medical problems. Always talk to your doctor for a diagnosis.
How is presbycusis treated?
Your doctor will find out the best treatment based on:
- How old you are
- Your overall health and medical history
- How sick you are
- How well you can manage specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- How long the condition is expected to last
- Your opinion or preference
Treatment options for presbycusis may include the following:
- Hearing aid(s)
- Assistive devices such as telephone amplifiers or technology that converts speech to text
- Get training in speech-reading (to use visual cues to determine what is being said)
- Learn techniques for preventing excess wax in the outer ear