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 impact you mentally and emotionally and has been linked to isolation, depression and social withdrawal,” Hope Lanter, AuD, lead audiologist at Hear.com, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
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)
“Acting early is key, and being fit with hearing aids at the onset of hearing loss will give the best long-term outcome,” Lanter says. “Discuss any coexisting conditions [with your provider and ask] how these may impact your prognosis for any further worsening of hearing loss in the future. Ask if there are ways you can minimize the impact of hearing loss on everyday life and maintain social connections to prevent depression and anxiety.”
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.