As we age, our bodies undergo changes. It’s part of the natural life cycle — even if the effects of aging aren’t always pleasant or easy to accept. Hearing loss affects approximately one-third of U.S. citizens between the ages of 65 and 74, and nearly half of the over-75 population suffers some level of hearing loss.
So why, exactly, does our hearing decline as we age? In part, it’s because the tiny hair cells in our ears — which translate sound waves into recognizable sounds for our brain — start to break down and deteriorate over time. The less functioning, healthy hair cells we have in our ears, the poorer our hearing becomes. There is no way to repair or regain these cells; once they’re gone, they’re gone. This age-related hearing loss is called presbycusis.
What causes presbycusis?
Most of the time, presbycusis happens as a complication of aging, much like thinning or graying hair or deteriorating eyesight. But there are a few other factors that can contribute to presbycusis:
- Genetics. If presbycusis runs in your family, your risk for age-related hearing loss is naturally higher than average.
- Noise-induced hearing loss. If your hearing was already poor due to exposure to loud noises, either through work or at home and in leisure, this could be a contributing cause of presbycusis.
- Medical conditions and related diseases. Illnesses that disrupt the blood supply to the middle ear — such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure — can contribute to presbycusis.
Symptoms of presbycusis
If you suffer from presbycusis, it’s likely that you can already identify some of the biggest symptoms. Loved ones, and especially children (whose voices tend to be high-pitched and harder to distinguish), are difficult to hear in conversation. Even everyday sounds — the television or the alarm clock — become difficult to recognize.
If you’re constantly asking people around you to speak up or repeat themselves, or if you’re finding yourself turning up the volume on devices (to levels that other people find uncomfortable), perhaps it’s time to seek a hearing evaluation from a professional audiologist.
Though there is no cure for presbycusis, many treatment options are available. There are different types of hearing aids available depending on the degree of your hearing loss, and your audiologist can help you determine which is best for your needs. With the proper hearing aid and a willingness to address your presbycusis, you could achieve improved hearing.
Are you experiencing hearing loss and need an audiologist? Associated Audiologists has doctoral-level professionals who can help diagnose hearing loss and tinnitus. Contact us today to make an appointment, and prevent hearing problems from affecting your everyday lifestyle.