Age-related hearing loss - Presbycusis

As we get older we lose our hearing. Some people get an age-related hearing loss earlier than others. Age-related hearing loss is also called Presbycusis or Presbyacusis.

When does hearing loss begin?

Statistically we all start to lose our hearing when we are in our 40s. One adult in five and more than half of all people over the age of 80 suffer from hearing loss. However, more than half of the hearing impaired population are of working age.

Signs and symptoms of age-related hearing loss

What are the signs and symptoms of an age-related hearing loss? With age-related hearing impairment (presbycusis) there are certain typical signs to look out for.

Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) develops slowly and gradually, so normally we do not notice the decline in our ability to hear. Most people with age-related hearing loss first experience a decline in their ability to hear high frequency sounds.

Classic symptoms

In most cases, age related hearing loss affects our ability to hear high frequency tones. Therefore, a classic symptom of an age-related hearing loss is problems hearing high-pitched sounds such as female or children’s voices or spoken consonants such as s, t, k, p, b and f.

Another common symptom of age-related hearing impairment is problems hearing in situations with background noise such as parties, social gatherings, meetings, conventions and in restaurants.

Daily sounds may disappear

You may have lost the experience of common daily sounds.

Ask yourself: When did I last hear the birds singing, the humming of the refrigerator, the beep from the microwave oven or the sound of running water? If you miss these sounds, it could be signs of an age-related hearing loss.

Other signs and symptoms

Other signs and symptoms to look out for can be:

  • Turning up the volume on the television or radio
  • Asking people to repeat themselves
  • Difficulty hearing people talking from behind
  • Difficulty understanding conversations over the telephone
  • Not hearing the doorbell or the telephone ringing
  • Certain sounds may seem overly loud
  • Ringing ears (tinnitus)

If you experience some of these symptoms, the best advice is to get your hearing checked by having a hearing test. You should then contact your family doctor (GP) or a hearing care professional.

Get your hearing checked

If you think that you might have an age-related hearing loss, we recommend that you get your hearing checked by a hearing professional.

Treatment of age-related hearing loss

How do you treat age-related hearing loss? Can age related hearing loss be cured?

There is no cure for age-related hearing loss (Presbyacusis), but there are a number of things you can do to help yourself maintain a normal life.

Age-related hearing loss is normally treated with modern, digital hearing aids. In cases with a very profound hearing loss, this can be treated with hearing implants such as cochlear implants.

Hearing aids will make people with an age-related hearing loss hear better again. The hearing aids will not restore the “normal hearing” of our younger years. Instead, hearing aids improve our ability to hear by intelligently using and strengthening the hearing that we still have.

Age-related hearing loss most often gets worse slowly and develops over time, just as our vision changes as we age. Therefore, it is important to get your hearing checked regularly and maybe also get your hearing aids adjusted when you have an age-related hearing loss.

You can also get telephone amplifiers and other assistive devices. As well as this, many find it helpful to learn sign language and lip reading or other visual cues to aid communication.

Causes of age-related hearing loss

Why does hearing deteriorate with age? As we get older we lose parts of our hearing. Some people get an age-related hearing loss earlier than others and some lose more of their hearing than others.

Presbyacusis / Age-related hearing loss can be hereditary, according to several studies. Environmental factors are also known to cause this condition. For instance, repeated exposure to loud noises is proved to have an impact on Age-related hearing loss / Presbyacusis.

Smokers are also more likely to develop Presbyacusis / age-related hearing loss while certain medical conditions and medications can contribute to the diagnosis.

Your doctor can perform a complete physical exam in order to rule out medical conditions that can cause hearing impairment.

What should I do if I think I have an age-related hearing loss?

If you think you have an age-related hearing loss, you should have your hearing checked with a hearing test. Contact your family doctor (GP), an ENT or a hearing care professional. They can help you find out if you have an age-related hearing loss and may benefit from the use of hearing aids.