Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is the loss of hearing that gradually occurs in most of us, as we grow older. It is one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults.
Approximately one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. Having trouble hearing can make it hard to understand and follow a doctor’s advice, respond to warnings, and hear phones, doorbells, and smoke alarms. Hearing loss can also make it hard to enjoy talking with family and friends, leading to feelings of isolation.
How to detect age-related hearing loss
Age-related hearing loss most often occurs in both ears, affecting them equally. Because the loss is gradual, if you have age-related hearing loss you may not realize that you’ve lost some of your ability to hear. There are many causes of age-related hearing loss. Most commonly, it arises from changes in the inner ear as we age, but it can also result from changes in the middle ear, or from complex changes along the nerve pathways from the ear to the brain. Certain medical conditions and medications may also play a role.
The first sign is usually no sign at all. Often it’s our friends and family that begin to notice you can’t hear like you used to. Hearing loss becomes more obvious when it is more advanced. People often notice difficulty hearing conversations when there is background noise, such as in a restaurant or around a dinner table.
What are the common causes?
The most common cause of hearing loss, by far, is age-related hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss is due to the death of certain types of sensory cells in the inner ear, called hair cells. Once these cells die, they never grow back. In the case of age-related hearing loss, we actually do not know why they slowly die. Other causes of age related hearing loss include;
- 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 that the brain processes speech and sound
- Damage to the tiny hairs in the ear that are responsible for transmitting sound to the brain
- Age-related hearing loss can also be caused by other issues, including:
- Poor circulation
- Exposure to loud noises
- Use of ototoxic medications
Advances in medicine and technology have led to many new treatments for hearing loss. The most popular treatment for age related hearing loss is hearing aids. Removable Hearing Aids make sounds louder and make them easier for the inner ear to pick up. They’re typically either analog or digital.
Analog hearing aids. These convert sound into electrical signals, and make them louder. They work like a microphone plugged into an amplifier. You can program them for different environments, like a small room or a crowded restaurant.
Digital hearing aids. These convert sound into a code of numbers, and change them back into sound. You can program them to amplify only the frequencies where you have hearing loss. In general, digital devices give you more flexibility than the analog kind. But they also are more expensive.
Behind-the-ear. It’s best for mild to severe hearing loss The sound is sent through an ear mold that you put in your outer ear. They’re larger than other models but they’re also powerful.
Open-fit. You wear these behind your ear. They relay sound through a narrow tube that you put into your ear canal. Unlike behind-the-ear aids, open-fit aids allow the canal to stay open. Some people prefer them They’re less prone to damage from earwax and they’re smaller, which makes them more discrete.
In-the-ear. These model helps mild to severe hearing loss. The parts are so small that they fit completely inside your outer ear.
Age-related hearing loss begins in the 50s. By 70 years of age, two thirds of people have hearing loss. About 100 percent of people have it at 100. Take the steps to deal with your hearing loss by scheduling regular hearing tests with us at Focus Hearing. We can help you treat your hearing loss before it inevitably becomes a larger problem down the road.