As we age, we experience a number of changes in the way our bodies function. Hearing loss might be one of these changes.
Hearing loss due to aging, also known as “presbycusis”, is a common condition – almost half of adults over age 65 experience some degree of hearing loss. Although age-related hearing loss is not life-threatening, it can have a significant impact on your quality of life if left untreated.
Age-related hearing loss occurs gradually over time due to deviations in the inner ear, including:
- Changes in the structures of the inner ear.
- Changes in blood flow to the ear.
- Impairment in the nerves responsible for hearing.
- Changes in the way the brain processes speech and sound.
- Damage to the tiny hairs in the ear that are responsible for transmitting sound to the brain.
- Presbycusis can also be caused by other issues such as:
- Poor circulation
- Exposure to loud noises
- Use of certain medications
- Family history of hearing loss
Symptoms of age-related hearing loss typically begin with an inability to hear high-pitched sounds, including female or children’s voices. You may also have difficulty hearing background noises or hearing others speak clearly.
Other symptoms include:
- Certain sounds may seem overly loud.
- Difficulty hearing in noisy areas.
- Difficulty hearing the difference between “s” and “th” sounds.
- Ringing in the ears.
- Turning up the volume on the television or radio louder than normal.
- Asking people to repeat what they say.
- Inability to understand telephone conversations.
You may not be able to prevent presbycusis, but you can take steps to prevent your hearing loss from getting worse. If you experience age-related hearing loss, try to:
- Avoid repetitive exposure to loud sounds.
- Wear hearing protection in places where there are loud sounds.
- Control your blood sugar if you have diabetes.
If you develop symptoms of age-related hearing loss, seek help from an audiologist promptly. Presbycusis is a progressive condition that may get worse over time and as your hearing loss increases, you’re more likely to lose your ability to understand speech. Hearing loss is permanent but you may be able to minimize the loss if you seek early treatment and assistive devices like hearing aids can improve your quality of life.
Talk with an audiologist about your treatment options and find out how you can minimize the impact of hearing loss on your everyday life.