What Is presbycusis?

Age-related hearing loss
Age-related hearing loss is often caused by changes in the inner ear.

Presbycusis, also known as age-related hearing loss, is a gradual loss of hearing that affects most of us as we age. It is among the most prevalent conditions that affect older people.

In the United States, nearly half of individuals older than 75 years have hearing problems, and one in three adults between the ages of 65 and 74 years have hearing loss.

Hearing loss can make it challenging to comprehend medical advice, heed warnings, and hear phones, doorbells, and smoke alarms. Additionally, hearing loss might make it difficult to enjoy conversing with family and friends, which can cause feelings of loneliness.

Most frequently, age-related hearing loss affects both ears equally and typically occurs in both. If you have age-related hearing loss, you might not be aware that you've lost some hearing because the loss is gradual.

What are the symptoms of presbycusis?

Possible symptoms include:

  • Having trouble hearing higher pitches, such as children's voices or some electronic noises (such as tones on a cellphone)
  • Increasing the TV or radio volume
  • Communication difficulty in crowded or noisy environments such as restaurants
  • Reading lips while people are speaking to you
  • Tinnitus (ringing, buzzing, roaring, or "crickets") in one or both ears
  • Men's voices are simpler to hear than women’s

What are the causes of presbycusis?

Age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, is frequently caused by changes in the inner ear. Many people have hearing loss caused by both aging and loud noises. The sensory hair cells, one of the parts of your ear that helps with hearing, can sustain long-term damage from loud noises.

There are several potential reasons for hearing loss, some of which include:

  • Inner ear damage: The hair or nerve cells in the cochlea that transmit sound impulses to the brain may become worn down with age and exposure to harsh noise. Hearing loss results from the ineffective transmission of electrical impulses caused by damaged or absent hair or nerve cells. Higher pitch sounds could sound muted to you. You might find it challenging to distinguish words from the surrounding noise.
  • A gradual accumulation of earwax: Earwax can obstruct the ear canal and stop sound waves from passing through. Your hearing may improve after getting rid of earwax.
  • Tympanic membrane perforation (eardrum rupture): Hearing loss can result from eardrum rupture caused by loud noises, pressure changes that come suddenly, being poked in the ear with something, and infections.
  • Ear infection and malignancies or abnormal bone growths: May result in hearing loss in the outer or middle ear.
  • Hereditary: Your ancestry may predispose you to hearing loss due to aging or noise-induced damage.
  • Workplace noises: Working in industries such as farming, construction, or factories, where high noise is a common occurrence, might harm your ears.
  • Noises for recreation: An immediate and irreversible hearing loss may result from exposure to explosive noises, such as those made by jet engines and weapons. Snowmobiling, biking, carpentry, and listening to loud music are some other leisure pursuits that have potentially lethal noise levels.
  • Drugs: Drugs that can harm the inner ear include the antibiotic gentamicin, Viagra (sildenafil), and several chemotherapy medications. If you use aspirin, other painkillers, antimalarial medications, or loop diuretics in extremely high dosages, it may temporarily affect your hearing and cause tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or hearing loss.
  • Diseases: The cochlea can be harmed by conditions such as meningitis or other disorders that cause high fevers and illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

How is presbycusis diagnosed?

Your medical professional will use a lighted scope (otoscope) to examine your ear. They'll check for any swelling or infections that could be the source of:

  • Hearing loss
  • Damage to your eardrum
  • Objects or wax caught in your ears

They could advise you to see an audiologist—a doctor who specializes in hearing problems—so they can give you an audiogram test. During the exam, sounds are played through headphones to assess your hearing ability. If you can't hear some tones, you might have hearing loss.


What is hearing loss? See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 10/19/2022
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