Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is the loss of hearing that gradually progresses as we age. It affects the older and elderly population across the world. Age related hearing loss more often occurs in both ears, affecting them equally. Since it happens gradually, age-related hearing loss may not be easily detected till some major hearing problem appears.
The symptoms make it difficult to understand conversations, respond to warnings, hear phone calls, answer doorbells and hear smoke alarms. It lessens the quality of life and makes it hard to enjoy talking to family and friends, leading to feelings of isolation.
The causes of age-related hearing loss may be changes in the inner ear as we age, or changes in the middle ear, complex changes along the nerve pathways from the ear to the brain and also certain medical conditions like diabetes which play a major role.
Why do we lose hearing as we age?
When there is a long term exposure to sounds, certain amount of wear and tear happens to the sensory cells in the ears and hence causes hearing loss. The sounds actually damage the sensory hair cells in the ears, since they do not grow back; you tend to gradually lose your hearing ability.
Medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes also contribute to hearing loss. Certain medications taken to control the medical conditions may contain toxins that are harmful to the sensory organs in the ear and thus causes hearing loss. Some birth abnormalities of the outer ear or middle ear such as reduced function of tympanic membrane or the eardrum can cause problems in hearing. Many older people have a combination of both age-related and noise-induced hearing loss.
How to prevent age-related hearing loss?
You can start by protecting yourself from noise-induced hearing loss by protecting your ears from sounds that are too loud and last too long. Avoid listening to loud music, sound of firearms, snowmobiles, lawn mowers etc. You can also protect your precious ears with ear plugs or ear muffs. These are some of the simple steps that can prevent the loss of hearing due to age related issues.
What are the treatments available?
There are many treatments for age-related hearing loss but everything depends on the severity of the hearing loss and the treatments will work better for one and not for another. There are number of devices and aids that help your hearing loss and the most common ones are external hearing aids, cochlear implants, bone anchored hearing system, assistive hearing devices or lip reading/speech reading techniques.