There are many different forms of hearing loss and by far the most common form is age-related hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss is a natural part of the aging process. The passing of time is something that impacts people differently but as we get older the hair cells in the inner ear begin to die and the more hair cells that die, the worse our hearing will get. It therefore stands to reason that the older you get, the more likely it will be that you will suffer from hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss is also known as Presbycusis and is the cumulative effect of aging on hearing. Hearing loss that accumulates with age but is caused by factors other than normal aging is not Presbycusis, although differentiating the individual effects of multiple causes of hearing loss can be difficult.

Hearing empowers us and helps us lead our everyday lives without limitations. It enables us to socialize, work and communicate. It also helps us to stay connected to the outside world and it keeps us safe by warning us of potential danger. A telephone ringing, a restless baby or the blare of a fire alarm are just a few examples of important signals that we need to be able to hear.

One of the biggest factors about age-related hearing loss is the fact that it deteriorates slowly over time, which means that people don’t really notice it until it has become very obvious. If a person loses their hearing through illness, injury or an accident, the loss of hearing can be noticed immediately. This provides people with the opportunity to get investigated and hopefully find a solution to their hearing problem. However when the quality of your hearing diminishes over time, you may not notice and this means you could leave it a lot longer to receive help. While it should be noted that hearing loss through age is incurable, it can often be assisted by the use of devices such as hearing aids. This means there is always hope that your hearing can be improved and boost your chances of being able to lead as normal a life as possible.

What are the symptoms of age-related hearing loss?

  • Speech of others sound mumbled or slurred
  • High-pitched sounds, such as “s” or “th” are hard to distinguish
  • Conversations are difficult to understand, particularly when there is background noise
  • Men’s voices are easier to hear than women’s
  • Some sounds seem overly loud and annoying
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) may occur in one or both ears
The symptoms of age-related hearing loss may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.

How is age-related hearing loss treated?

Your health care provider will figure out the best treatment based on:

  • Your age
  • Your overall health and medical history
  • How sick you are
  • How well you can handle specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • How long the condition is expected to last
  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment options for age-related hearing loss may include the following:

  • Hearing aid(s)
  • Assistive devices, such as telephone amplifiers or technology that converts speech to text
  • Training in speech-reading (to use visual cues to determine what is being said)
  • Techniques for preventing excess wax in the outer ear

Can I prevent age-related hearing loss?

At this time, scientists don’t know how to prevent age-related hearing loss. However, you can protect yourself from noise-induced hearing loss by protecting your ears from sounds that are too loud and last too long. It’s important to be aware of potential sources of damaging noises, such as loud music, firearms, snowmobiles, lawn mowers, and leaf blowers. Avoiding loud noises, reducing the amount of time you’re exposed to loud noise, and protecting your ears with ear plugs or ear muffs are easy things you can do to protect your hearing and limit the amount of hearing you might lose as you get older.

References: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, Hidden Hearing, Johns Hopkins Medicine