Presbycusis (age related hearing loss) : Symptoms, Cause, How to prevent, Treatment
Presbycusis is the formal term for age-related hearing loss.
Have you noticed difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds lately?
Are you finding it challenging to hear your friend's conversation in a restaurant but can hear the conversation from the adjacent table?
If so, you may be experiencing symptoms of Presbycusis.
However, does everyone inevitably develop Presbycusis as they age?
This article covers the symptoms, causes, prevention, and treatment of Presbycusis, providing comprehensive information for those experiencing or concerned about age-related hearing loss.
What type of hearing loss is Presbycusis?
Presbycusis is known well as the age-related hearing loss. And it is true.
Presbycusis is a type of sensorineural hearing loss that occurs gradually as people age.
Sensorineural hearing loss is typically caused by damage to the hair cells or nerve pathways in the inner ear.
Hair cells and nerve pathways can be damaged by various factors. In the next paragraph, we will delve into these causes.
Presbycusis is a common form of hearing loss in older adults and is often associated with the natural aging process.
With presbycusis, individuals may experience difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds and understanding speech, particularly in noisy environments.
The exact cause of presbycusis is not always clear, but it is thought to result from a combination of genetic factors, cumulative exposure to noise over time, and changes in the blood supply to the ear.
If you experience two or more symptoms from the list below, there is a high likelihood that you may already be experiencing presbycusis.
It is advisable to consult with an otolaryngologist and undergo a hearing test.
Difficulty Hearing High-Pitched Sounds:
- People with presbycusis often find it challenging to hear sounds in the higher frequency range. This can include difficulty hearing birds chirping, doorbells, or high-pitched voices.
- Especially, having difficulty in conversations with young women or children is common.
Speech Understanding Issues:
- Understanding speech, especially in noisy environments, may become problematic. Individuals may have difficulty following conversations, particularly when there is background noise.
- This can lead to challenges in social situations, such as distinguishing between background noise and the specific sounds one wants to hear in crowded places like social gatherings, restaurants, or busy streets.
Turning up the Volume:
- Individuals with presbycusis may frequently increase the volume on the television, radio, or other audio devices.
- If people around you consistently advise you to lower the volume, it might be worth considering the possibility of presbycusis. This condition progresses gradually, often affecting both ears, and individuals may not perceive the advancement of presbycusis on their own.
- Struggling to hear and understand conversations can lead to frustration and social withdrawal. People with presbycusis may avoid social situations to escape the challenges of communication.
- Some individuals with presbycusis may experience tinnitus, which is the perception of ringing, buzzing, or other noises in the ears. Tinnitus is not exclusive to presbycusis but can be associated with age-related hearing loss.
Misinterpreting Spoken Words:
- Difficulty in hearing certain consonants or confusing similar-sounding words is another common symptom.
Common Presbycusis Causes
Presbycusis is a type of age-related sensorineural hearing loss, primarily resulting from the natural aging process, leading to a decline in the function of the hair cells within the inner ear.
However, not everyone experiences presbycusis simply due to aging.
Those who are frequently exposed to the underlying causes are more prone to developing presbycusis.
- Genetic Factors:
- There is evidence to suggest that genetic factors play a role in presbycusis. If there is a family history of hearing loss, an individual may be more predisposed to developing age-related hearing loss.
- Noise Exposure Over Time:
- Long-term exposure to loud noises over the course of a person's life can contribute to presbycusis.
- This includes occupational exposure to loud machinery, recreational exposure to loud music, or other sources of environmental noise.
- In contemporary times, even younger individuals may exhibit symptoms of presbycusis, particularly those exposed to prolonged loud music through earphones, irrespective of the sound's extreme volume. As a result, some relatively young people may find themselves needing hearing aids.
- Blood Supply Changes:
- Alterations in the blood supply to the ear can impact the function of the inner ear structures and contribute to hearing loss.
- Major illnesses that induce changes in blood supply, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, are significant contributors. Numerous studies suggest a higher likelihood of hearing loss in individuals with diabetes and high blood pressure.
How to Prevent Presbycusis
As long as aging remains inevitable, completely preventing presbycusis is indeed impossible.
However, considering that presbycusis is a type of sensorineural hearing loss, the strategies for preventing presbycusis align with those for preventing sensorineural hearing loss in general.
Ultimately, one should minimize exposure to loud noises.
Previously, abrupt and extremely loud sounds such as gunfire or construction site noises were common culprits, causing momentary damage to the nerves and hair cells within the inner ear.
Now, however, the use of earphones or earbuds for listening to music or taking calls has become a prominent contributor.
Reflecting on our daily habits, it's apparent that we spend a significant portion of our time, often at considerable volume, using earphones or earbuds.
Therefore, if concerned about presbycusis, especially from one's 40s onward, it is advisable to reduce the time spent using earphones. When alone or in situations where it's feasible, opting for alternatives such as using the phone or TV speakers without earphones can be a healthier choice.
What are the Treatments for Presbycusis?
Hearing Aids: Hearing aids are often the most common and effective treatment for presbycusis. They amplify sounds, making it easier for individuals to hear and understand speech. An audiologist can help determine the appropriate type and settings for a hearing aid based on individual needs.
- Cochlear Implants: For severe cases of hearing loss, cochlear implants may be considered. These devices are surgically implanted and directly stimulate the auditory nerve to provide a sense of sound.
- Assistive Listening Devices: These devices, such as amplified telephones, alerting devices, and personal listening systems, can enhance communication in specific situations.
- Communication Strategies: Learning communication strategies and techniques can help individuals with presbycusis navigate challenging listening environments. This may include asking for repetition or clarification, choosing quieter settings for conversations, and using visual cues.
- Auditory Training: Audiologists may recommend auditory training exercises to help individuals with presbycusis improve their ability to understand speech and discriminate sounds.
- Medications: In some cases, medications may be prescribed to manage specific aspects of hearing loss, such as tinnitus (ringing in the ears). However, the effectiveness of medications in treating presbycusis itself is limited.
- Lifestyle Changes: Avoiding further exposure to loud noises and adopting a healthy lifestyle, including managing underlying health conditions like diabetes and hypertension, can contribute to overall ear health.