Age Related Hearing Loss: Causes, Symptoms, & Management
Age related hearing loss (presbycusis) occurs naturally as we age. It is caused by the degeneration of the cells in the ear and is one of the most common types of hearing loss in the world. It tends to be a high frequency hearing loss, i.e. you may not hear your watch alarm anymore. In this blog post, we guide you through the causes, symptoms, prevention, and management of age related hearing loss.
What Is Presbycusis?
Age related hearing loss, scientifically known as presbycusis, is a type of Sensorineural Hearing Loss that naturally occurs as we age. The condition is progressive and irreversible (at the moment). It is characterised by high frequency hearing loss as shown in the example audiogram here. Approximately one in three people aged over 65 are affected by some form of hearing loss. According to the National Institute on Deafness & Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), "nearly 25 percent of those aged 65 to 74, and 50 percent of those who are 75 and older have disabling hearing loss." To combat the onset of presbycusis, hearing aids help tackle mild to moderate impairments head on.
What Causes Presbycusis?
Age related hearing loss is primarily the result of something we cannot control and that is ageing. The inner ear hair cells are at most risk. These hair cells are tiny structures within the cochlea of the inner ear and play an important role in transferring incoming sound waves to the nerves responsible for hearing. Damage to these hair cells is most commonly due to the body's natural ageing processes. Hearing loss can result due to the incapability of the body to grow new or replace compromised cells.
Besides the nerve or cell damage, presbycusis can result from changes in the structure of the inner ear or insufficient and impaired blood flow to the ear. Sometimes, as we get older, certain aspects of our senses naturally deteriorate. There is not always a lot we can do, other than to manage it properly.
What are the symptoms of Age Related Hearing Loss?
The severity of the symptoms may vary from one person to the next. As with any medical condition, one, or many symptoms may be present. You may notice the following situations:
- Sounds seem less clear
- high frequency hearing loss such as not hearing high-pitched alarms
- Difficulty in hearing people around you in noisy environments
- Background noise may appear too loud compared to the actual speech
- Not being able to hear the telephone or doorbell ringing when others can
- Other people may sound mumbled or slurred
- Inability to hear high-pitched sounds such as "s" and "th"
- Often having to ask people to repeat what they said
- A necessity to have the television or radio turned up much higher than other family members find comfortable
- Feeling tired after participating in a conversation held within background noise
If you do experience any of the above, we highly recommend that you consult with a healthcare professional or audiologist for a proper medical examination.
Can I Prevent Age Related Hearing Loss?
Although you can expect to experience a certain level of hearing loss as you age, you can attempt to successfully delay the process by avoiding several unhealthy habits:
- Listening to loud music with headphones or earbuds - it is important to avoid continuous exposure to loud noises.
- Intake of medications that might contribute to hearing loss.
- An unhealthy diet that can lead to diabetes, excessive weight, high blood pressure and heart problems.
- An inactive lifestyle
Free Online Hearing Test
There are several steps that can help you determine whether you are suffering from any type of hearing loss not just a high frequency hearing loss. First, it is advisable to watch out for any of the above-mentioned symptoms, especially if they occur regularly. If in doubt, you can first check your hearing with the help of our free online hearing test.
These quick and painless tests will measure your responses to sounds of varying tones and help provide an approximate indication of any present hearing loss. Of course, for a really accurate and detailed check, it is highly advisable to visit your GP who can refer you to an audiologist as soon as you begin to experience any difficulties hearing.
How To Properly Manage Presbycusis
Some aspects of hearing loss are medically treatable (e.g. hearing loss due to wax blockage in the ear canal) and can be fully cured, in cases where the right measures are taken in time.
Presbycusis, however, is a form of Sensorineural Hearing Loss which is, in fact, a permanent hearing loss. There is no official cure or treatment to restore hearing. But, there are ways to amplify sounds to enhance your ability to hear, such as digital hearing aids.
For example, the HD 230 is a very popular hearing aid. It is incredibly discreet and comes packed with all the essential features to effectively manage hearing loss. It is ready to wear on arrival and you do not need the go-ahead or prescription from a medical professional - just order online.
Other types of hearing loss, whether irreversible or very mild, can be managed with specifically designed devices such as:
A straightforward hearing assessment will help identify any hearing impairment and a health professional will be able to recommend the correct treatment plan for you.
What are the Dangers of Unmanaged Age Related Hearing loss?
The main problem with age related hearing loss is that it usually progresses quite slowly over time and the opportunity to take control of the condition while still in its mild form is often missed. If the problem is ignored and its severity increases, it can seriously affect the sufferer's social life and communication with others and lead to unpleasant situations not only for them but family and friends as well. Such troubles can create other serious conditions such as depression and loss of self-confidence, as well as constant feelings of anxiety, frustration, and inadequacy. There have been studies linking hearing loss to dementia showing the importance of early diagnosis.
About Hearing Direct
We are one of the world's leading hearing aid specialists. HearingDirect offers a wide range of affordable products, and information resources to help improve the quality of life for the hard of hearing. We sell:
- Hearing aids,
- Accessories such as earplugs,
- and amplified devices such as super loud alarm clocks and amplified phones.
Author: Joan McKechnie
After qualifying as a Speech-Language Pathologist and Audiologist Joan has spent most of her 20 year career in hearing-care related roles. She has a wealth of experience within the hearing aid and hearing rehabilitation fields and has worked in manufacturing environments with two hearing aid companies helping to develop products and roll out new technologies. Joan has been involved with Hearing Direct since its launch and enjoys the online retail environment which seeks to provide easier access to hearing products and accessories. She is HCPC registered. Read Joan's full bio here.