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Age-Related Hearing Loss: Causes, Symptoms, and What You Can Do

By Marta Manning
Medically Reviewed by Jordan Glicksman, MD, FRCSC, MPH on January 13, 2021
As you get older, you may find that your hearing is not what it used to be. Learn how you can recognize age-related hearing loss and what treatments are available.

Your hearing, like the rest of your body, changes as you age. After age 60, many adults will experience age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis. Age-related hearing loss is common in the elderly and is caused by a variety of genetic, medical and environmental factors. Understanding how presbycusis develops can help you work with your doctor to minimize hearing loss and improve your quality of life as you get older.

Age-Related Hearing Loss Risk Factors and Signs

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), age-related hearing loss affects 1 in 3 people between the ages of 64 and 74. By age 75, that figure rises to approximately 50%.

Because it tends to happen gradually, age-related hearing loss can sneak up on you unnoticed. Here are some of the most common hearing loss symptoms:

  • Speech and other everyday noises sounding muffled
  • Difficulty making out words from background noise
  • Commonly asking others to speak louder
  • Trouble hearing the radio or television and needing to turn up the volume higher than before
  • Feeling unengaged in conversations
  • Ringing in ears

Age-related hearing loss can also have mental health consequences. In 2018, The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry published an article analyzing the results of a 10-year health study of a cohort of older adults. The authors found that age-related hearing loss was associated with an uptick in depressive symptoms in adults who were otherwise healthy. 

The most common causes of age-related hearing loss are changes in the inner ear, middle ear or throughout hearing-related nerve pathways in the brain. These factors can also contribute to loss of hearing as you age:

  • Genetics and family history
  • History of long-term exposure to loud noise
  • Medical conditions like heart disease or diabetes
  • Taking medications like chemotherapy agents or some types of antibiotics
  • History of smoking

Treatment Options That Can Help

Although there is no cure for age-related hearing loss, various treatments are available to improve hearing quality and boost social confidence. Depending on the root cause of your hearing loss, your general health and your lifestyle, your doctor may suggest one of these treatments:

  • Hearing aids
  • Assistive devices like telephone amplifiers
  • Aural rehabilitation methods like lip reading
  • Psychological coping strategies
  • Cochlear implants (used to treat severe hearing loss)

Start Your Journey To Better Hearing Today.

In many cases, hearing loss is a treatable condition. It is worth taking the time out to get the answers and treatment you deserve. Don’t wait. Start today.