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Presbycusis

(Age-Related Hearing Loss)

How to Say It: Pres-bih-CUE-sis

Definition

Presbycusis is a gradual loss of hearing in both ears. It is due to aging.

Causes

Age-related hearing loss is caused by:

  • A wearing down of the inner ear
  • Changes in the bone structure of the middle ear
  • Changes in the nerves needed for hearing

Other things that cause damage over time are:

  • Regular exposure to loud noises
  • Genes

Risk Factors

Age-related hearing loss is more common in men, and people over 60 years old.

Other things that raise the risk are:

  • Family history of hearing loss with aging
  • Having pale or white skin
  • Having health problems, such as:
    • Atherosclerosis
    • Diabetes
    • Head injury
    • Weak immune system
    • Kidney failure
    • Cerebrovascular disease
  • Taking certain medicines, such as:
    • Pain medicines such as aspirin, NSAIDS, and acetaminophen
    • Some cancer drugs
    • Certain antibiotics
    • Quinine
    • Tea tree oil
  • Being around loud noises for work or hobbies
  • Smoking

Symptoms

Hearing loss happens slowly over time in both ears. Symptoms may be:

  • Problems hearing high sounds
  • Sounds that are not clear
  • Problems hearing people talking
  • Ringing in one or both ears— tinnitus
  • Background sounds that are too loud or annoying
  • Ear fullness with or without vertigo—a feeling of spinning

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done. The doctor will check the inner ear with a lighted tool. Some basic tests will be done to check hearing.

Other tests may include:

  • Audiometry —to check the amount of hearing loss
  • Tests to rule out other causes, such as:
    • Weber test—to find out if the hearing loss is on one or both sides
    • Rinne test—to test if the hearing loss is due to nerve problems

Treatment

Hearing loss cannot be reversed but further loss may be slowed. The goal of treatment is to reduce problems from hearing loss. Options are:

  • Techniques to improve communication
  • Hearing aids for the ears
  • Assistive listening devices for the phone
  • Cochlear implants—for severe hearing loss

Prevention

To reduce the risk of age-related hearing loss:

  • Avoid loud noises and sounds.
  • Manage health problems that may cause hearing loss.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Ask about supplements that may slow down age-related hearing loss.
RESOURCES:

American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
http://www.entnet.org

American Tinnitus Association
http://www.ata.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Hearing Society
http://www.chs.ca

Canadian Society of Otolaryngology
http://www.entcanada.org

REFERENCES:

Age-related hearing loss. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Available at: http://www.asha.org/uploadedFiles/AIS-Hearing-Loss-Age-Related.pdf. Accessed February 22, 2021.

Age-related hearing loss. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/age-related-hearing-loss. Accessed February 22, 2021.

Patel R, McKinnon BJ. Hearing loss in the elderly. Clin Geriatr Med. 2018;34(2):163-174.

Presbycusis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/presbycusis. Accessed February 22, 2021.

Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mary Beth Seymour, RN  Last Updated: 2/22/2021