Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

50+: Live Better, Longer

Font Size

Age-Related Hearing Loss - Topic Overview

Age-related hearing loss, known as presbycusis, affects most older adults to some degree. The most frequent cause of age-related hearing loss is the natural breakdown of nerve cells in the inner ear camera.gif. Sound reaches the inner ear, but the breakdown of nerve cells prevents proper hearing. This is known as sensorineural hearing loss.

Age-related hearing loss can also be caused by age-related changes that may affect the eardrum or the bones of the middle ear, which affects how well sound can move into the inner ear. Long-term medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, or other problems with blood movement (circulation), may also contribute to age-related hearing loss.

Age-related hearing loss usually affects both ears and may range from mild to severe. It may affect your hearing in the following ways:

  • Speech sounds mumbled, and conversations are hard to understand, especially when there is background noise.
  • Your ability to hear and distinguish high-pitched sounds is reduced. A man's lower-pitched voice may be easier to understand than a woman's higher-pitched voice.
  • You hear ringing, roaring, hissing, or other sounds in your ears (tinnitus). Tinnitus may increase as your hearing loss gets worse.

If you have age-related hearing loss, you may not know it, because older people usually lose their hearing very slowly. Without knowing it, you may make small changes over time-turning up the TV volume, standing closer to a person who is speaking-that allow you to adapt to hearing loss. At some point, the loss may become so severe that these changes no longer work. Your family members or friends may be the first to realize that you cannot hear well.

There is no known way to reverse age-related hearing loss. But if you have age-related hearing loss, there are devices that can help you hear and communicate more easily, including hearing aids, telephone amplifiers, pagers, and email. It is also helpful to ask your family and friends to make adjustments when talking with you, such as speaking clearly and facing you so that you can better see their facial expressions and gestures.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    Next Article:

    Age-Related Hearing Loss Topics

    Today on WebMD

    Eating for a longer, healthier life.
    woman biking
    How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
    womans finger tied with string
    Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
    man reviewing building plans
    Do you know how to stay healthy as you age?
    fast healthy snack ideas
    how healthy is your mouth
    dog on couch
    doctor holding syringe
    champagne toast
    Two women wearing white leotards back to back
    Man feeding woman
    two senior women laughing